The programme for this event is now online at https://biocriticism.hypotheses.org/microscopic-imaginaries-conference. The symposium will take place in Paris, at the Maison de la Recherche, 4 rue des Irlandais, on Friday 24/11/2023. The event is in person only. All are welcome.
The next deadline for BSLS postgraduate and early career researcher funding applications is the 1st of December 2023. Applications are accepted quarterly, by the first of March, June, September, and December. Bursaries may be used towards the cost of presenting research papers at conferences, for archival and research trips, for the attendance of summer school, workshop, or training events, and for childcare costs associated with these activities.
For details see https://www.bsls.ac.uk/funding/
Call for papers: “Microscopic Life in 20th- and 21st-Century Performance” (Paris, 15/03/24)
In 1932, on the stage of Boston’s Colonial Theatre, a human-sized bacterium complained to the audience that its human host had infected it with measles. Through this very human voice, George Bernard Shaw’s new play Too True to be Good gave a comical take on biology which reversed the perspective from the human to the microbial. Its appearance was brief, but Shaw’s talking microbe anticipated the emergence and foregrounding of microscopic actors in contemporary performance, and many of the questions raised by their appearance. Are our relations to other scales inevitably mimetic? Can we see microscopic agency without anthropomorphizing it, or the microscopic scale without colonizing it? How does biology trouble the expected roles of humans and nonhumans? And how are the categories of actor, actant or plot renewed and transformed by living microscopic processes?
Following a first symposium on literature and the microscopic organised in November 2023, this symposium will ask how 20th and 21st-century performance has engaged with invisible microscopic life. We define performance as a broad spectrum of artistic work that includes living exhibits and installations, as well as the staging of dramatic or post-dramatic work. Building on recent conceptualizations of microperformativity (Hauser & Strecker, 2020), this symposium will focus specifically on artworks that involve forms of microscopic life, such as microbes and microbiomes, or living microscopic processes, such as DNA transcription, as actors and collaborators. We ask how these actors affect agency, which shifts away from the human actor towards multi-species and multi-scalar collectives; temporality, which extends over new timescales and requires new forms of stage management and curatorial work; and relationality, where artworks involving microscopic living entities raise new ethical and biopolitical issues.
We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers in English or French, and encourage speakers to explore the following topics:
- key moments and turning-points in the performance of microscopic life over the 20th and 21st centuries
- technological and non-technological engagements with microscopic life
- the epistemic dimensions of performance aesthetics
- the role of performance in changing scopic paradigms, or moving beyond scopic paradigms towards other sensory modes of knowledge
- the ethical and political dimensions of performance involving microscopic life
- the conceptual shifts provoked by microscopic life, around notions such as community, agency, self, individual or environment
- how microscopic life affects categories such as actor, agent, plot, character, spectator, creator, collaborator, author
- the reception of performance involving microscopic life, and evolving relations to audiences
- relations between popular science and performance
- transformations of critical terminology and theoretical frameworks in reaction to microscopic life
Proposals should be sent in Word or PDF documents by the 24th of November 2023 to the organisers:
Answers will be sent out by the end of November. The symposium will take place at the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris on 15/03/2024, with the support of the FMSH Biohumanities programme (https://www.fmsh.fr/projets/biohumanities), the Institut Universitaire de France, and the BioCriticism project (https://biocriticism.hypotheses.org/).
Registration is now open for ‘Imagining Queer Ecologies’, a one-day online symposium hosted by the British Society for Literature and Science and the University of Oxford. Taking place via Microsoft Teams on Friday 01 December 2023, from 09:00 to 18:40 GMT, the symposium is free, open to all, and encouraging of participation from postgraduate researchers (PGRs) and early-career researchers (ECRs). Programme and tickets available via our Eventbrite page.
The 11th ESHS - European Society for the History of Science Conference, that will take place in Barcelona, between 4-7 September, will have a symposium devoted to Science, Technology, Arts, and Literature.
Dialogues between Science, Technology, Arts and Literature
Science and technology have always used art and literature in several ways: as a source of information, ways of building, setting and wide spreading narratives and representations, as well as ideas and making them prevail. Narratives and representations that change according to the development of scientific and technological knowledge and the very heritage that it generates and is associated with. But they also change in accordance with the space and time in which they are produced, being (re)constructed, destroyed, replaced, adapted, or confronted depending on prevailing or emerging agendas, be they ideological, political, social, economic, cultural, ethnic, ageist, sexual or gender based.
But are we, the ones engaged with different forms of science and technology fully aware of this reality? Literary and artistic contexts influence the construction of archaeological narratives and representations, throughout time? How have different literary and artistic contexts influenced the construction of scientific and technological narratives and representations over time? In what ways do these same narratives and representations contribute to underpin agendas (including scientific, personal, and institutional, public, and private), while breaking paradigms and prejudices (namely sexual, gender, ethnic, class and ageist)? What is the nature and scope of this ongoing dialogue between science, technology, art, and literature? How does this constant interweaving (i)materialise? Who dictates, feeds, and manages it? To what end(s)? And what about the creative freedom of the author, whether artistic or literary, where and how does it remain? How are narratives - written and iconographic - constructed from science and technology? How to make scientific knowledge reach different types of audiences? And what space do the new social realities - migratory, nomadic, etc. - occupy in this increasingly interwoven complex?
This is a vast set of questions to which we seek to answer during this session. We therefore invite scientists from different fields and geographies, historians of science and technology, as well as historians of women and gender, art and audiovisual historians, anthropologists, illustrators, and all those dedicated to the relationship between science, technology, art, and literature embodied in different media, education and instruction, from school textbooks to museums, through social networks and digital platforms, to join us.
Submission Information – Deadline: 20 December 2023
- Title of presentation
- Abstract (max 250 words)
- Short bio (max 50 words)
- Researcher identifier (ex. ORCID / ISNI/ VIAF / Other)
- Obs.: In case of multiple contributors please enlist all the contributors’ information. The first name should be the corresponding contributor.
BSLS, CoSciLit and SLSAeu would like to announce that we will be making funding available to help delegates to attend the International Conference of Three Societies on Literature and Science through a reduction of costs. This will be available on request through the registration process to delegates whose proposals for papers or panels have been accepted, who are not in full-time employment and who have financial needs. Each application will be assessed on its merits in relation to the number of requests and the full amount of funding available.
Registration for the conference will open in January once all the proposals have been reviewed.
A reminder that abstracts for next year's conference are due on 1 December, 2023.
The conference will bring together three societies focused on literature and science: BSLS will be joined by the European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts (SLSAeu), and the Commission on Science and Literature (CoSciLit).
Plenaries will be given by Brian Hurwitz, Emeritus Professor of Medicine and the Arts at King’s College London; Isabel Jaen Portillo, Professor of Spanish at Portland State University; Rhona Trauvitch, Director of the Science & Fiction Lab at Florida International University; and the Directors of the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research, the Birmingham Institute for Sustainability and Climate Action and the Institute for STEMM in Culture and Society at the University of Birmingham.
Please send proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org by 18:00 (UK time) on Friday 1 December 2023. Proposals should be up to 250 words for individual papers or up to 750 words for a panel. Please include a biography of up to 50 words per speaker and specify whether you hope to attend the conference in person or online. Proposals will be evaluated by a panel drawn from all three societies.
Leah Sidi, Sarah Kane's Theatre of Psychic Life: Theatre, Thought and Mental Suffering, (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, London, 2023). 211 pp. £85.00 Hb. £76.50 E-book. £76.50 Pdf. ISBN: 9781350283121
Leah Sidi’s Sarah Kane’s Theatre of Psychic Life: Theatre, Thought, and Mental Suffering offers a full-length study of Kane’s plays, both written during the 1990s. Sarah Kane is a British playwright who suffered from mental illness and committed suicide at the age of 28 in 1999. Many consider her work in the context of post-dramatic theatre and In-Yer-Face Theatre. Graham Saunders, Kane’s biographer, published a number of books on her life and work. His publications as an author include Love Me or Kill Me: Sarah Kane and the Theatre of Extremes in 2002, About Kane: The Playwright and the Work in 2009, and Sarah Kane in Context in 2010 (as an editor). While Saunders’s work offers a reference to Kane’s work, Leah Sidi 2023 moves the discussion forward and focuses critically on Kane’s plays, examining her dramatic experimentation and the ways in which she could dramatise the experience of inner psychic life. Sidi indicates that Sarah Kane’s Theatre of Psychic Life is “a book about mental distress and Sarah Kane’s theatre.” (Sidi, 2023:1), it addresses the intersection between theatre and psychiatric discourse in the UK during the 1990s.
In her survey, Sidi covers Kane’s major works, which include Blasted (1995), Phaedra’s Love (1996), Cleansed (1998), Crave (1998), and 4:48 Psychosis (1999). Sidi approaches Kane’s theatre from the perspective of Kane’s experience as an expert in both theatre and mental illness. In this, Sidi explains that Kane’s theatre is not an autobiographical work but rather informed by her experience of illness as well as theatre forms and the culture and political context of her time in the nineties. To understand the connection between Kane’s theatre and their cultural discourse narrative, Sidi offers a critical examination of the mental health system, policy, and care in community plays in the 1990s. Sidi utilises a cultural and historical lens to excavate Kane’s engagement with mental illness. Arguing that Kane wrote her plays in the period of the 1990s when the mental health system faced profound changes in terms of care and delivery, Sidi indicates that Kane experienced the mental health system as a playwright and a patient. As part of her theoretical and historical frame, Sidi uses Kane’s Phaedra’s Love as a parody of the issue of community care and as a political play of Kane’s work.
Sidi organises her analysis by themes instead of the chronological order of the plays. The five chapters discuss trauma from sexual abuse, psychosis, mental collapse, and desire and despair. Sidi dedicated the chapters of the book to moving from external representation to focusing on the internal depiction of psychic life on stage. In chapter one, she proposes to use the term ‘dramaturgy of psychic life’ to understand the relation between Kane’s drama and psychic life. Using the tool of theatre ‘experientialism’ and D. W. Winnicott’s psychoanalysis theories as a starting point for her analysis, Sidi explains her choice of the terms ‘psychic pain’ and ‘psyche’ to describe the interior theatrical experience that Kane’s plays provide to the audience. Sidi in chapter two moves to examine the internal collapse and how Kane incorporates it into the structure of her play Blasted. Utilising a feminist approach and trauma structure, Sidi argues the dramaturgy of Blasted embodies spatially a traumatised mind after abuse.
In Kane’s last three works, Kane tends to be more experimental in form, and her subject matter revolves around the inner mental space. Sidi starts gradually to excavate the internal reality of characters with Cleansed in chapter three. Drawing on the tradition of expressionist theatre, and more specifically Antonin Artaud, Georg Büchner, and August Strindberg, Sidi detects Kane’s style and her tendency to depict elements of the psychotic experience on stage. Utilising a cognitive neuroscience perspective, Sidi argues that in Cleansed, Kane’s style shows a movement to a more interior dramatic universe but is not attributed to a particular character. Sidi indicates that by this movement to the inner mind, Kane’s drama crates an analogous experience of the inner crisis for the audience through the sharing of elements of psychotic breakdown with them.
Since Kane’s last two plays tend to be more abstract and do not have an identifiable character but rather voices, Sidi’s approach in concluding her analysis in the last two chapters with them seems reasonable, especially given her aims of exploring the psychic life from external structural representation to the depiction of fragmented mind. Sidi views Crave and 4.48 Psychosis as more developed plays in terms of the depiction of psychic life. In Chapter 4, an examination of the intersection between a mind in crisis and the theatrical space is offered through the analysis of 4.48 Psychosis. Sidi argues in this play that Kane offered the audience an experiential space of mental suffering. Through examining theatrical space, Sidi concludes that Kane collapses the boundary between the audience and the dramatic space.
The fifth and final chapter focuses on the notion of desire in Crave and 4.48 Psychosis. In this chapter, Sidi went even further to think of what Kane’s last two plays demand from the spectator beyond the theatrical experience of psychic life. In this way, Sidi claims that Kane’s theatre moves even beyond representation and engagement of the audience to think about the contradiction of the complexity of the human psyche since Crave and 4.48 Psychosis offer both suicidal despair and desire and both represent desire in a queer landscape, which means that gender identities become fluid in the queering of desire and the desired other.
Sarah Kane’s Theatre of Psychic Life is a book about the private, the historical, the social, and the political. Adapting a style of moving from a political and exterior depiction of psychic life, such as in Phaedra’s Love and Blasted, to a more interior and personal one, such as in Crave and 4.48 Psychosis, Sidi provides a comprehensive study of Kane’s drama and mental illness. Sidi, in her book, takes the discourse of mental illness and community care in the 1990s as communicable discourse through theatrical special representation. The reading of Kane’s theatre as a theatre of psychic life offers a dramatic approach that demands the audience's full engagement. Leah Sidi’s Sarah Kane’s Theatre of Psychic Life: Theatre, Thought, and Mental Suffering offers a comprehensive introduction to Kane’s theatre and the depiction of the experience of mental illness and will be a valuable source for students and academicians in the field of theatre as well as those in medical humanities studies.
Wansah AlShammari, University of Hail
Literature and Science in History: Japanese Reception and Reflection
An online conference event organised by Japan Women’s University, Tokyo, Japan, and the Commission on Science and Literature (DHST/IUHPST)
Saturday 2 March 2024 (12:30-18:30)
How does the study of historical scientific and literary connections contribute towards Japanese scholarly reception of anglophone literature? And how do Japanese literary and critical texts reflect these interrelated scientific and literary influences? This one-day conference, organized by Japan Women’s University (JWU), Tokyo, and the Commission on Science and Literature (CoSciLit), aims to consider these questions and to discuss the opportunities that the field of science and literature affords literary scholarship in Japan. The event brings together research by leading Japanese scholars of anglophone literature and concludes with an online address by CoSciLit Global President Professor John Holmes.
To register your (online or in person) attendance please go to: https://rb.gy/x1m18Read the rest of this entry »
The Journal of Literature and Science is looking for reviewers to review various articles published in the last year to 18 months in the field of literature and science. Please see below for available articles, or write to Michelle Geric to suggest a relevant article for review.Read the rest of this entry »