2007 conference

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We are very glad to announce that Chris McCabe will be joining us to talk on Saturday. Chris is a research scientist, a geneticist and an author of several novels most recently Dirty Little Lies, under the name ‘John Macken’. He describes research he undertook for this novel in his recent Independent article ‘Hi-tech labs at the crime scene’.

Chris has lectured across the world for the British Council on connections between literature and science, and closer to home he spoke recently at the British Academy ‘Festival of Science’ at the University of East Anglia. A successful novelist Chris writes for the national press and has chaired panels at a range of conferences, including recently at the ICA in London.

All this and he's a working scientist and teacher too.

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Gowan Dawson’s excellent review article in the recent JVC of the ‘state of the union’ of literature and science is especially welcome to all of us committed to the new British Society for Literature and Science, and to me personally as the Society’s Membership Secretary. I hope, indeed, that it brings me a significant amount of work over the next few months as more scholars interested in the field join what is already an active group. In my view, Gowan is particularly well-placed to offer such an analysis as he is one of an increasing number of academics in the field of literature and science who are continually engaged in that difficult interdisciplinary project of sustained scholarly involvement in both fields and their communities simultaneously.

One of the central themes of Gowan’s argument is the necessity of appropriate interdisciplinarity; the crucial specificity of understanding that comes only from a prolonged engagement with whichever field one feels less expert within. Although Gowan suggests that attention to historiographic (and more importantly historical) accuracies may seem like ‘hair-splitting pedantry’ (308) it is, he goes on to argue, vital for ‘literary critics ... to recognise’ (308) the processes of cultural formation through which the sciences have developed. At the first BSLS conference Gowan and I discussed this very topic, agreeing that this model of thoroughgoing interdisciplinarity – in which history of science scholarship was often to the fore – was most recognisable, and for us, the most admirable of the available work in the field.

Unsurprisingly, then, I am in agreement with the majority of Gowan’s arguments. I do think, however, that there are one or two aspects of work in the field of literature and science to which he might have given a little more space. Read the rest of this entry »

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In the run up to the second conference of the society it's instructive to look back to our inaugural conference and its context. Gowan Dawson (University of Leicester) has recently offered an incisive review of the opportunities afforded by the range of interests and periods that the society brings together.

In his article ‘Literature and Science under the Microscope’ (Journal of Victorian Culture, EUP, 2006) Dawson argues that the BSLS ‘offers an opportunity to foster a distinctively historicist or contextual approach to the study of science and literature’ (302), and offers a stimulating review of recent critical work as well as a discussion of the critical challenges and difficulties that his argument raises.

These challenges are those that we'll be taking up in March in Birmingham.

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Details of our upcoming conference are now available. The programme is nearly finalised, the speakers are confirmed and registration and accomodation details are available on this site. Do book early, we're looking forward to seeing old friends and new faces in March in Brum.

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Our March conference is taking shape with the promise of a varied and exciting programme. Panel topics identified so far vary from ‘Science and Twentieth-Century Theatre’ and ‘Science and Modernism’ to discussions of early modern alchemy and poisoning.

Details of the conference programme can be found in the link to the right: information on registration and accomodation will appear here very shortly.

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The Second Conference of the British Society for Literature and Science

Proposals for 20-minute papers are invited for the second annual conference of the British Society for Literature and Science. The conference will be held at the Birmingham and Midlands Institute in central Birmingham, hosted by the University of Central England, from 29-31 March 2007. Plenary speakers include Professor Robert Crawford, Jenny Uglow and Professor Sally Shuttleworth.

Papers may address topics in the interactions of literature and science in any period and any languages. Presenters need not be based in UK institutions.

We also invite panel proposals for three papers of 20 minutes or four papers of 15 minutes; members of the panel should be drawn from more than one institution.

Please send an abstract of no more than 400 words and a 100-word biographical note (or in the case of a panel, abstracts and notes for each speaker) to bsls@englit.arts.gla.ac.uk, by 30 November 2006. Please send abstracts in the body of messages; do not use attachments. Alternatively, abstracts and proposals maybe posted to Dr Stuart Robertson, School of English, University of Central England, Perry Barr, Birmingham B42 2SU, UK.

Please address any queries to Dr Stuart Robertson at the email or postal address above.

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We're busy planning the next conference, to be held in Birmingham March 2007, and hope to confirm plenary speakers very soon. Likely speakers so far are Jenny Uglow, author of The Lunar Men (2002), who will talk about her latest work Nature's Engraver: A life of Thomas Bewick, due to be published Autumn 2006, and Robert Crawford who has recently edited a collection for OUP Contemporary Poetry and Contemporary Science, due September 2006.

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Details regarding the location and themes of the next conference are currently under discussion. Do be sure to check back here soon for the call for papers.

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