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Ordering knowledge, from Bacon to the Shelleys
16-17 March 2018
University of Strasbourg
Organised by Pôle Grand-EST-SEAA XVII-XVIII (Société d’Etudes Anglo-Américaines du XVIIe et XVIIe siècles) in collaboration with IDEA (Interdisiciplinarité dans les Etudes Anglophones, Univ. de Lorraine) and SEARCH (Savoirs dans l’Espace Anglophone : Représentations, Culture, Histoire, Univ. de Strasbourg).
Confirmed keynote speakers:
Laurence Talairach-Vielmas (Centre Alexandre Koyré, University of Toulouse)
Sorana Corneanu (University of Bucharest)
Anne Bandry-Scubbi (Université de Strasbourg)
Jean-Jacques Chardin (Université de Strasbourg)
Richard Somerset (Université de Lorraine)
In his 1667 tract publicizing and promoting the newly-created Royal Society, Thomas Sprat argued that while the Baconian experimental methods championed by the Society’s members imposed upon them “a close, naked, natural way of speaking” and “a constant Resolution, to reject all the amplifications, digressions, and swellings of style,” the austerity of this linguistic recommendation would not imply a distancing of philosophical and literary cultures. Beyond the stylistic debate around the desirability or not of ornamentation in language, the experimental method would benefit poetry by improving the justness of perceptions: it was thus expected that knowledge of “the Works of Nature” would prove “one of the best and most fruitful Soils for the growth of Wit.” For Sprat, the weak natural knowledge of the Ancients had produced a literature of limited imaginative scope; but the resources in imagery of the more fortunate Moderns were about to be replenished by “the charitable assistance [of] Experiments.” The images thus derived from observation were natural not conventional since “they proceed from things that enter into all men’s Senses” and which are therefore “nearest to their Nature.” The perceiver who ignores empirical method and relies only on immediate sense impressions is condemned to see with the eyes of convention and therefore to fail to perceive nature truly, or to discern its true beauties.
In his ‘A Defence of Poetry’ written just over a hundred and fifty years later, Percy Bysshe Shelley also insisted on the convergent pathways of science and poetry; only for him it was the poet who was to be in the driving seat. To thinkers influenced by German Idealism at the end of the eighteenth century, the experimentalists’ attempts to side-line the perceiving mind in the knowledge-building process could only result in distorted understanding. It was in fact the combination of perceptive acumen guided by richness of insight that was best apt to “defeat the curse which binds us to be subjected to the accident of surrounding impressions.” Poetry and science alike, when pursued by such minds, enable us to see beyond familiar appearances and to become “the inhabitants of a world to which the familiar world is a chaos.” Each “creates anew the universe, after it has been annihilated in our minds by the recurrence of impressions blunted by reiteration.” For Shelley and the Romantics generally, failure to accept the operative function of the agent will leave us the slaves of the appearances, and incapable of perceiving – far less understanding – the living spark at the heart of nature that is simultaneously the true object of enquiry for the natural philosopher, and the ultimate subject of expression for the poet.
At the one extreme, then, stands the apologist for the new science holding out to men of letters the promise that philosophical and cultural renewal go hand in hand, with the former promising to nourish the latter; at the other extreme, a similar gesture is made in the opposite direction, inviting the natural philosopher to revive and correct his inadequate conceptions by drinking at the fountain of poetic insight. But however opposed their prescriptions, Sprat and Shelley shared the assumption that ‘knowledge’ and ‘culture’ can and should cooperate. Any attempt definitively to separate them would destroy both.
The current institutional norm that places science and literature in non-communicating disciplinary spaces is thus a recent development. Emerging in the late nineteenth century, it was less the result of epistemological divergence than of the politics of institutionalisation and specialisation. The implications for the historian are far-reaching. It does not suffice merely to notice the difference of prior epistemological arrangements in order to understand their operation; we need to attempt to think through the appropriate prisms. Thus, rather than anachronistically seeking interactions between ‘Literature’ and ‘Science,’ it may be more fruitful to treat the ‘knowledge’ of the period in holistic terms: a complex whole requiring the input of an ever-broader range of specialists but also the policing or structuring input of political, social and cultural authorities capable of bestowing status and value.
Following this orientation, the conference aims to re-examine the norms and modes of knowledge-production in the period after the introduction of ‘scientific method’ but before the definitive fragmentation of the sciences and the humanities into distinct disciplinary fields. It seeks to relate those norms to broader political, institutional and epistemological considerations, and by so doing to sketch out the contours of the period’s continued aspiration to a holistic knowledge economy. A fuller sense of this persistence is essential to the present-day historian’s attempts to retrieve the cultures of the past in their full complexity, and to the aptitude of academics in general to situate their own practices in a broader disciplinary history.
Potential themes for conference papers include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Taxonomies of knowledge and their representation; changing taxonomical order
- Early phases in the emergence of ‘intermediary’ disciplines, notably the ‘historical sciences’ (geology, palaeontology, anthropology) and the ‘scientific humanities’ (philology, antiquarianism/archaeology). The place of ‘civil history’ in this spectrum
- Institutional framing of disciplinary practices; their interactions
- Modes of exchange and dissemination of culture and knowledge; networks of influence
- The emergence of disciplines and the emergence of national identity
- Ancient learning versus modern method: polemics, debates and satire
- The ‘man of letters’ and the ‘man of science’ as citizens of the ‘republic of letters’
- Women in the knowledge economy
- Cross-fertilisation of generic codes
- Disciplines, education and social status
- University curricula; dissenting academies
Case studies of representative figures, working across a range of disciplinary specialisms
Interdisciplinarity in Practice: Medical Humanities Research Workshop for PGRs
- Undertaking an interdisciplinary PhD
- Research methodologies
- The disciplines of the medical humanities and disciplinary “identity”
- Adapting your work for different audiences
- Collaboration within and beyond academia
- Positioning yourself for job and funding applications
- Publishing in the field
SCIENCEHUMANITIES INTERNATIONAL SUMMER SCHOOL
CARDIFF UNIVERSITY, UK
MONDAY 30 APRIL – FRIDAY 4 MAY 2018
Keynote Speaker: Professor N. Katherine Hayles (Duke University)
In 2018 Cardiff University’s ScienceHumanities research group will host a week-long International Summer School dedicated to the examination of the relations between the humanities and the sciences.
The Summer School programme features workshops from leading scholars in literature and science, the histories of science and medicine, and the philosophy of science from across the UK and Europe. It is designed to give you access to significant researchers in the field, and professional development opportunities on publishing, public engagement, and archival research.
In addition, you will have the opportunity to share ideas, concepts and methods with other doctoral students and begin to build a network of global contacts. The Summer School also incorporates a cultural programme focussed on the rich heritage of Cardiff as both a Welsh and British city.
The Summer School is open only to doctoral students located in universities and research centres outside the UK. There are only 12 places available.
It is free to attend, but participants must be able to meet the cost of their own transport, accommodation and part of their subsistence during their stay in Cardiff. Advice will be given on accommodation and transport and some meals will be included during the Summer School.
Two bursaries of £400 are available for students from nations with limited resources.
To express initial interest and receive an application form please email Professor Martin Willis on email@example.com. Further information can be found on the ScienceHumanities website at:https://cardiffsciencehumanities.org
The closing date for expressions of interest is 29 September, 2017. Applications must be submitted by 30 November, 2017 and decisions will be communicated by 31 December, 2017. Participating doctoral students must be able to commit to the full 5 days of the Summer School.
The Humanities Research Centre at the Australian National University presents
Imagineers in Circus and Science: Scientific knowledge and creative imagination
Tuesday 3 - Thursday 5 April 2018
Scientists seek to investigate the ways in which nature works and to ask how humanity can best comprehend different aspects of the universe. By challenging conventional wisdom, scientists can act as rebels against the status quo and common sense. In cultural and fictional contexts, they may appear and behave like artists: creative, skilled craftsmen; ‘imagineers’ and bewildering performers. These fictional scientists do not merely domesticate the unknown and the uncanny, they also invent and stage it.
One of the most productive breeding grounds for the invention, amalgamation, and staging of scientific knowledge and creative imagination has been the circus and related cultural phenomena, such as freakshows, carnivals, and 19th-century ‘scientific’ museums. These sensational, kaleidoscopic institutions present(ed) manifold wondrous exhibits, including automatons, wax figures, and mummies, but they also presented scientific discoveries. Barnum’s American Museum, for example, made hundreds of previously unseen specimens accessible to a broad audience.
Exhibitions and shows of this type united science with mystery, acted as mediators of knowledge, and were often the primary public source of information about the current state of scientific research. They are reminders that science and its pursuits are matters of perspective, and the product and producer of good stories. What do these stories tell us about the “two cultures” of the humanities and science?
- Professor Rosemarie Garland-Thomson (Emory University) (Provisional)
- Professor Jane Goodall (University of Western Sydney)
- Professor Richard Weihe (Accademia Teatro Dimitri/SUPSI Verscio, Switzerland)
Call for papers
We welcome proposals for individual, 20-minute papers addressing any aspect of science and the circus (and related phenomena) including:
- Cultural and literary studies
- Circus studies, Theatre and performance studies
- Indigenous literatures from around the world and their relation to science and performance
- Zoopoetics, animal art and critical animal studies
- Intersections of aesthetic and scientific treatments of cultural issues
- Imaginaries of technology and performance (e.g. in films)
- Museology, and applied art and science
While this conference is concerned primarily with culture and literature, we envisage it as a multi-disciplinary event and will welcome proposals from any disciplinary perspective.
The conference will be held at the Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University, from the 3rd to the 5th of April, 2018. Please submit an abstract (200 words max.) and a brief bio (100 words max.) as Word documents by 31 July 2017 to the conference convenor, Dr Anna-Sophie Jürgens, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accepted papers will be announced by 1 September 2017. Selected papers from the conference will be published in a special issue of a peer-reviewed journal.
For inquiries about the conference, please email Dr Jürgens or email@example.com.
This year at the BSLS Annual Conference in Bristol members of the society will be part of an experimental format linking panels, conferences, learned societies and countries. The panel “Collective Knowledge: Museums, Scientific Inquiry, and Literature” (Friday, April 7 at 9am) is part of a trans-Atlantic, 2-panel event that pairs a panel at the British Society of Literature and Science (BSLS) in Bristol in April 2017 with a roundtable at the annual conference of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English (ACCUTE) at the Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities in Toronto in May 2017. The structure of the event is described in the link to the ACCUTE blogsite here: https://accute.ca/2017/03/23/collective-knowledge-museums-scientific-inquiry-and-literature/
We hope many of you will be able to join us for this panel at the BSLS conference. We will also post a link to the videos when they become available online.
University of Bristol, 6-8 April 2017
ONLY A FEW DAYS LEFT TO SUBMIT YOUR ABSTRACTS!
The twelfth annual conference of the British Society for Literature and Science will take place at the University of Bristol, from Thursday 6 April until Saturday 8 April 2017.
The BSLS invites proposals for twenty-minute papers, or panels of three papers, on any subjects within the field of literature and science. Please send an abstract (c.200 words) and short biographical note to the conference organiser (Ros Powell firstname.lastname@example.org) by no later than 5pm GMT, Friday 9 December 2016. Please see the full CFP at www.bsls.ac.uk