A special issue of Romanticism on the Net, edited by Martin Priestman and Louise Lee, has just been published on 'The Two Darwins'. To read the introduction and the articles, click here. Because of a hiatus in publication, the issue has been backdated to 2016 and published under the journal's then title Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net.
The Beastly Modernisms conference at Glasgow University (12-13 September 2019) was part-funded by a BSLS small grant. Maria Sledmere reports on the discussions which took place. Want to apply for a BSLS small grant? Click here!
A BEASTLY WELCOME
‘I want to think about what it means to give a beastly welcome,’ Peter Adkins begins, introducing our first key note, Derek Ryan (University of Kent). Giving a beastly welcome, it turns out, is an ethical approach to scholarship that holds openness, scepticism, humour and questioning. It involves prising open the jaws of one discipline to let the planktonic matters of others drift through, nourishing and encouraging richer conversations. It is something, maybe, that ‘just happens’ when you bring a certain number of enthusiastic, cutting-edge scholars together for two days, forming something like a zoology of fugitive, moving thought.
Beastly Modernisms 2019, a conference held at the University of Glasgow on 12-13 September, aimed for this symbiotic approach to literary studies. Organised by PhD candidates whose work traverses the realms of animal studies, modernism and the environmental humanities — Peter Adkins (University of Kent), Saskia McCracken (University of Glasgow), Maria Sledmere (University of Glasgow) and Caitlin Stobie (University of Leeds) — the event quickly grew from a planned symposium to international conference, with guest speakers flying in from Paris, America, Poland, Russia and beyond. Such is the appetite for a more beastly scholarship, whose commodious bounds proliferate in animate metaphors, puns and sightlines of future critical thought.
ANIMALS AND MODERNISM IN GLASGOW
Recent work on animals, animacies and modernism includes books by Carrie Rohman, Caroline Hovanec, Dererk Ryan, Roni Grén, Kari Weil and Mel Y. Chen. No conference to date has centred on animal studies and modernism, and Glasgow felt like an ideal location for bringing a twist of the avant-garde, of creative-critical openness, to the traditional conference setting. Not only are the Scottish Network of Modernist Studies (SNoMS) and the British Animal Studies Network (BASN) based in Glasgow, but the city is also home to a vibrant, ecology-focused arts scene — from the Sculpture & Environmental Art BA at the Glasgow School of Art to A+E Collective and the Glasgow Animal Studies Reading Group.
A MENAGERIE OF PERSPECTIVES
The conference came together from a shared feeling that ‘the animal question’ was at a critical point within modernist scholarship, and that it deserved a platform of its own. With funding secured from The British Society for Literature and Science, The Vegan Society, British Comparative Literature Association, and the University of Glasgow’s College of Arts, we were able to explore what this question of modernism’s ‘beasts’ might entail.
We were delighted that delegates and speakers responded so readily to the spirit of the theme. There were panels on Bugs and Beasties, Modernist Empathies, Waste and Trash Animals, Surreal Creatures, Joycean Beasts, Animal Ethics and Marine Life — to name a few. Papers were given on myriad themes of a spirited, beastly nature: the multiple ‘lives’ of nature documentary (Amy Cutler), modernism’s telluric depths (Cathryn Setz), cosmic cats (Molly Gilroy), animal artists (Kirsten Strom), the queer and comic nonhuman (Maureen O’Connor) and modernist jellyfish (Rachel Murray). Throughout the conference, our speakers challenged us to think of modernism not just in archival or literary-historical terms but also as a mobilising set of cultural and critical tendencies, with unique questions to ask continuously of language, ontology and coexistence.
It was especially heartening to see a mix of creative, critical and multidisciplinary approaches to academic conference papers. We had practicing artists, photographers and filmmakers in attendance, sharing their work but also engaging in vital ethical and aesthetic discussion around the context of that work’s production and reception, in tandem with animals, humans and the more-than-human. Martin Pover, for instance, gave a talk on photographing zoos as ‘theatres of the wild,’ and Rosie Roberts, a recent graduate of the inaugural Masters in Art Writing programme at the Glasgow School of Art, screened her film Pan and took part in a lively Q&A which saw rich reflections on reparative filmmaking, precarity, the ‘choral I', the importance of play and the significance of ‘the everyday’ in questions of ecology and what we might call (in resistance to the human-animal distinction) beastly intimacies.
A crucial part of the conference was the Beastly Poetry night, hosted (quite appropriately) at the Butterfly and Pig bar in Glasgow. The audience formed a mix of conference delegates, friends, family and familiar faces from the city’s wide-ranging literary scene. Our readers, some of whom were invited and others who applied as part of our ‘open mic’ part of the evening, were: Jelle Cauwenberghs, Alexandra Grunberg, Eva Isherwood-Wallace, Miranda Cichy, Jane Hartshorn, Daisy Lafarge, Callie Gardner, Jane Goldman, and Colin Herd. The packed-out room was testament to the Glasgow poetry scene but also an indication that modernism and its beastly entrails is alive and well ‘in the present’: a question of constant reinvention, playful citation, diverse registers and formal experiment. From Cichy’s poetry of avian extinction to Hartshorn’s mythic, visceral femininity, Goldman’s biting, canine aesthetics to Lafarge’s wasps, stinging ‘with pagan abandon,’ and Herd’s anthropomorphised and tenderly-loved ‘Laplaplaplaplaplaplap Top’, the poets challenged what might be a beast and what might be modern, and how we can begin to address that in the question of lyric relationality and speech itself.
We were extremely lucky to have two keynotes whose work has been essential to the emergence and development of our field, hive, habitat, tropics or indeed ocean of study (there was indeed a distinctly transatlantic, borderless and porous flavour to many of the talks). Derek Ryan concluded day one with ‘Beastly Bloomsbury’ which argued that the animal turn in modernist studies ‘demands new readings of the most familiar modernist texts’, becoming close readers of the metaphors that structure animality, hierarchy and difference, noticing aspects of ‘the animal’ which elude human understanding. Kicking off day two, keynote Kari Weil (Wesleyan University) gave a vivid talk on animal magnetism: ‘the force that one animal body can have one another’. By moving through recent art (Berlinde de Bruyckere), French feminist philosophy and ideas from poststructuralism, Weil’s talk questioned the boundaries, entanglements and representations at stake in animal relationality. She considered the force of spectatorship, of contact and touch, memory, narrative and trauma, as well as the alien qualities within language itself that rub against our animal being.
One recurring theme throughout the conference was that of ‘mastery’. Following Sarah Wood in her book Without Mastery: Reading and Other Forces (2014), we ask what would a textuality or poetics without mastery look like? The papers of Beastly Modernism 2019 go some way to answering this question, or at the very least opening it up. Perhaps to be a beastly modernist requires something of a surrender of sovereignty, a recognition of the animal within ourselves (sated, happily, by the university’s delicious vegan catering and the hospitality of the Centre for Contemporary Arts, where our dinner was held on Friday) and an embrace of mobility, curiosity, fluctuation within thought, a shifting, plural, contaminated ‘I’ that bears its beastly echoes. To listen, share and challenge our familiar critical habitus.
Some delegates had the pleasure of a tour around the Hunterian’s Special Collections, facilitated by zoology curator Maggie Reilly. And so the conference began with this notion of the gaze and the touch: of what it means to look at what is held and preserved, to think through archivisation and curation within the critical force of our own work. It was clear to us that many exciting conversations were happening throughout the breaks and Q&A sessions, and delegates commented positively on the approachability of our speakers. We hope, then, that this might be something of what a ‘beastly welcome’ entails, and who knows what tracks, turns and paths of flight might happen next…
Professor Virginia Richter is looking to select a doctoral student (with an MA or equivalent degree) interested in pursuing their PhD in Modern English Literature under her supervision while working part-time as teaching-cum-research assistant in the Department of English at the University of Bern, Switzerland. You should be interested in undertaking research in one of Prof. Richter’s own areas of interest: English literature after 1800, literature and science, literary animal studies, gender studies, the blue humanities.
The role is a 50% appointment with a minimum salary of circa CHF39,437 per year (roughly £32,000) gross. It includes the obligation to teach some BA classes and would begin on 1st Feb 2020. Full details are in this PDF.
8-10 January 2020 at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, United Kingdom
18 July 2020 marks the tercentenary of the birth of Gilbert White, author of The Natural History of Selborne (1789), the bestselling account of the flora and fauna of his Hampshire parish. White encouraged a new way of looking at the environment, inspiring his readers to record the timings and interactions of plants and animals on their local patch. For that reason, he is sometimes called ‘the first ecologist’. But White was also a clergyman who administered the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, and who also took an interest in the folklore and beliefs current in his parish. For White, like many ‘natural-‘ or ‘physico-theologians’ of the period, the natural and the supernatural were inextricably entwined. Presenters at the 49th BSECS conference are therefore encouraged (but not required) to engage with any aspect of the theme of ‘Natural, Unnatural and Supernatural’ in the long, global eighteenth century.
Donna Landry (University of Kent at Canterbury): ‘In one red burial blent’: The Natural, the Unnatural, and the Animal at Waterloo
Hannah Williams (QMUL): ‘The Religion Problem’
To submit a proposal, please visit https://www.bsecs.org.uk/conferences/annual-conference/submit-a-proposal/
DEADLINE FOR PROPOSALS: 1 NOVEMBER 2019
All enquiries regarding the academic programme of the conference should be addressed to Dr Helen Williams via the BSECS email address: email@example.com
In June, we posted news of a campaign to save Charles Lyell's notebooks for the nation. Jim Secord writes with some important updates about how the project is going (emphases mine):
There have been some recent positive developments. First, the Export Bar which expires on 15th July will be extended to a final 15th October deadline. Second, we have confirmed with HMRC (the UK tax authority) and other parties that a Private Treaty Sale for the notebook collection has been agreed. By arranging for the tax to be removed from the sale we have reduced the purchase price from £1,444,000 to £966,000.
With over 800 generous pledges and the University’s own contribution we have now raised over £610,000. The revised deadline and target make our ultimate success a very real possibility.
I look forward to keeping you up to date with our progress. Should we be successful in saving Charles Lyell’s notebooks we will be undertaking an ambitious access project to ensure the collection is as freely available and appreciated as we and our collaborative partners can make it.
If you are moved to support (or further support) this project, you can do so here.
The University of Bayreuth’s professorship of English Literature is seeking a researcher for a three-year project on “Cosmopoetic form-knowledge: astronomy, poetics, and ideology in England, 1500—1800,” funded by the German Research Foundation (www.englit.uni-bayreuth.de/en/research). The project considers ‘form-knowledge’ as a crucial factor in the history of science alongside ‘thing-knowledge’ and ‘people-knowledge’ (cf. Shapin, A Social History of Truth). Specifically, it examines the ways in which astronomical knowledge and the forms used for its mediation acquired, and utilized, ideological and poetological meaning in early modern England.
The successful candidate will conduct a diachronic study of popular pragmatic and didactic genres in which early modern English readers encountered astronomical knowledge, such as the almanac or the astronomy textbook. They will produce a monograph on the ways in which astronomy, in these texts, was linked with political and ideological issues; contribute to an open-access, online bibliography of primary texts for the period in question; and participate in project-related research activities. The position offers the opportunity to write a PhD thesis in this context, gain teaching experience at the University of Bayreuth’s Department of English and American Studies, and be part of the University of Bayreuth Graduate School.
We invite applications from candidates with:
- a very good master’s degree in English literature, the history of science, comparative literature, history, media studies, or a comparable field;
- excellent research skills;
- excellent English language skills (spoken and written).
Experience in working with early modern prints, Latin/neo-Latin reading skills, and experience in digital content management are additional assets.
Conditions of employment
The position is part-time (65%) for three years. The University of Bayreuth offers a salary in accordance with the collective agreement for the public service of the German federal states (Tarifvertrag für dem öffentlichen Dienst der Länder, TV-L) at pay scale E13 (the specific salary will be determined according to individual qualification and professional experience).
The starting date is as soon as possible.
The University of Bayreuth actively supports equality, diversity and inclusion. We encourage women and international candidates to apply. Equally qualified candidates with disabilities or applicants with equivalent status receive preference in the application process.
Please submit the following documents by 15 September 2019 as a single pdf file (max. 10MB) to Prof. Florian Klaeger at <firstname.lastname@example.org>:
- a letter of motivation,
- curriculum vitae (including copies of BA and MA degrees and respective transcripts of records) and names and contact details of two academic referees,
- one writing sample (e.g., Master’s thesis).
If you have further questions about the position, you are welcome to contact us at the same address.
MDRN, KU Leuven, February 6-7, 2020
By the turn of the twentieth century, the ‘new astronomy’ had developed into a proper scientific discipline, with its own sets of instruments, its own journals, its own jargon, and its own interpretative authority. With the acceleration of new discoveries and insights into stellar phenomena, the emerging mass media ensured that this astronomical knowledge fascinated an even wider audience in the late 19th and early 20th century. At the same time, literature across Europe responded to the fascinating astronomical developments in a variety of modes, styles, and genres. From science fiction stories in penny magazines and didactic stories in boys’ papers to high modernist fiction and avant-garde poetry, many authors aesthetically imagined the starry night that had been scientifically laid out by astronomers. While some of the more highbrow responses to the new astronomical discoveries and innovative physical theories such as relativity theory and quantum theory as well as the response of new ‘science fiction’ have already been extensively studied by literary critics, the larger fictional engagement with the expanding astronomical knowledge awaits further exploration.
This two-day symposium wants to reflect on the many different literary responses to a universe that had been newly imagined and interpreted by astronomers between 1890 and 1950, so as to gauge the role literature played in in mediating astronomical knowledge and exploring new ways of imagining the cosmos. The conference aims to arrive at a better understanding of the convergences between physical, cultural, and literary practices that developed around the new astronomical discoveries between 1890 and 1950. It homes in on writings from different registers—highbrow, avant-garde, middlebrow and more popular forms of literature—as well as on writings from various European cultures and languages, in order to determine how European literature of the modernist period reflects on astronomy as a stimulus and transformative force in fiction. The conference invites papers that address such questions as the following …
- how did advances in astronomy shape central literary concerns,
- how was astronomical knowledge narrated in (popular, middlebrow, highbrow) fiction,
- how did literature participate in the dissemination of astronomical literature in the wider cultural field?
- how was the astronomical imagination legitimized in the process of knowledge production,
- how did literature comment on the epistemological status of both astronomy and fiction?
Topics might include (but are not limited to) …
- literary representation of stellar phenomena
- convergences between the sciences and cosmological resp. stellar tropes
- notions of the cosmos in relation to literary form and genre
- theories of constellations as a poetological concept
- astronomical fiction across Europe with a comparative approach
- transnational/-cultural dissemination of astronomical knowledge
- extraterrestrial life debates in literature
- well-known and lost authors of popular fiction
- seeing and vision as a key metaphors in astronomical fiction
- key figures of the history of astronomy and their literary resurgence (Copernicus, Galilei, Brahe, etc.)
This symposium is part of the larger research project Literary Knowledge, 1890-1950: Modernisms and the Sciences in Europe based in the research lab MDRN at the University of Leuven in Belgium. Please send an abstract (350 words max) and a short bio (250 words max) in the same file to Christoph Richter by October 15th. The presentation of papers should not exceed 20 minutes. Accepted applicants will receive an email confirming their participation by the end of October. We would like to encourage scholars at all stages of their career to consider sending a proposal. A selection of papers will be published in peer-reviewed journal.
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Blijde-Inkomststraat 21 - box 3311
3000 Leuven, Belgium
Conference venue: Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz (Campus Germersheim), Germany
Dates: 17th-19th September 2020
By casting scientific communication as “knowledge in transit”, James Secord (2004) drew attention to translation’s central role in shaping the knowledge-sharing processes seminal to scientific endeavour. More recently, both historians of science and of translation studies have placed greater focus on the power dynamics that determine which texts are selected for translation, by whom and for onward transmission into which other languages and scientific cultures. In the late 18th and 19th centuries, “standard” languages of science started to emerge in Europe, marking a shift away from the lingua franca of Latin towards the development of a handful of more “major” languages, which cast themselves as carrying a cultural and intellectual authority in transnational scientific communities. Meanwhile the growing body of work on the relationship between 18th-and 19th-century science and literature has demonstrated that the stylistic choices, rhetorical devices and modes of expression deployed by scientific authors – and also their translators – were key to shaping a work’s credibility and, by association, the integrity of its writer.
Taking as its focus the translation of specialist scientific treatises, handbooks, periodicals, as much as more “popular” works intended for a broader audience (including adolescents and children), this conference seeks to investigate patterns of information flow in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is interested in the productive collaborative exchanges or tensions between authors and translators, the role of translators as gatekeepers of knowledge, and the (in)visibility of women and other subaltern groups in knowledge-making processes in this period. In this energetic period of nation-building, the relationship between identity, language and (trans)national scientific communities increasingly acquires relevance, as do the connections between colonial centre and periphery. The spatial dimensions of the practices of translation are relevant to these developments, as indeed are changes in print culture, distribution and the dynamics of the book market. The conference is also interested in how 20th- or 21st-century (re-)translations of scientific writing from the Enlightenment and Romantic periods have repositioned these source texts and their authors for the modern age.
This conference therefore seeks to develop our understanding of the mobility of scientific print culture by exploring the relationship between scientific writing and translation from the perspectives of cultural studies, translation studies, history of science, archival studies, history of the book and print culture studies. Participants are invited to address one or more of the following issues in their 30-minute papers:
- scientific institutions, language policy and translation
- theoretical approaches to the practices of scientific translation
- science, translation and national identity
- scientific authorship, style and translation
- scientific translation and paratext
- gender, agency and translation in science
- translation in/of scientific periodicals
- scientific translation and the materiality of print culture
- text and image in scientific translation
- geographies of translation and knowledge exchange
- readers and reading communities of scientific work in translation
- 18th- and 19th-century science, translation and the digital humanities
Please send a title, abstract (max. 250 words) and bio (max. 100 words) by 13th September 2019 to Professor Alison E. Martin (JGU Mainz/Germersheim): email@example.com