March 2008

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The committee of the BSLS is delighted to announce that Ralph O'Connor's book The Earth on Show: Fossils and the Poetics of Popular Science, 1802-1856 (U of Chicago P, 2007) has been awarded the Society's first book prize. The book is a deeply-researched, ambitious and elegant account of early nineteenth-century literary and scientific writing on geology. It is likely to prove long-lasting and to be informative and stimulating to specialist scholars as well as to a wider readership.

The prize citation for The Earth on Show was written by the President of the BSLS, Professor Dame Gillian Beer:
"Ralph O'Connor's The Earth on Show is at once spectacular and judicious. He demonstrates the ways earth science declared itself to broad audiences during the Victorian period. He does so by exploring the immense variety of visual display, from panoramas to museums to illustrated books and cartoons. Alongside these examples he analyses how writing also can be made to perform discoveries. These two sources of evidence come together in a
richly argued, very readable, and innovative account that shows a new science making itself by making itself known. Chicago University Press has done a brilliant job, and so has the author."

The shortlist for the book prize (see below) was extremely strong: the six books addressed very different topics, demonstrating some of the breadth of this field, but were all based on detailed, wideranging and original research. Congratulations to all six authors, and above all to Ralph O'Connor.


The committee of the BSLS is delighted to announce the shortlist for the Society's annual prize for the best book on literature and science published the previous calendar year. The prize is awarded for the first time this year, and the winner will be announced at the conference in Keele at the end of March.

Jonathan Adams, Interference Patterns: Literary Study, Scientific Knowledge, and Disciplinary Autonomy (Bucknell University Press)

Gowan Dawson, Darwin, Literature, and Victorian Respectability (Cambridge University Press)

Mark Francis, Herbert Spencer and the Invention of Modern Life (Acumen Publishing)

Elizabeth Leane, Reading Popular Physics: Disciplinary Skirmishes and Textual Strategies (Ashgate Publishing)

James Mussell, Science, Time and Space in the Late Nineteenth-Century Periodical Press: Movable Types (Ashgate Publishing)

Ralph O'Connor, The Earth on Show: Fossils and the Poetics of Popular Science, 1802-1856 (University of Chicago Press)


2009 is both the bicentennial of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of The Origin of Species. Victorian Studies will mark the occasion with a special issue on “Darwin and the Evolution of Victorian Studies.�?

The study of Darwin and the relationship of his life and work to Victorian culture has become an industry. In the past twenty-five years alone we have witnessed the publication of the first fifteen volumes of the Darwin correspondence, Darwin’s 1836-1844 notebooks, major Darwin biographies by Janet Browne and Adrian Desmond and James Moore, and important books by such scholars as Gillian Beer, Bert Bender, Peter Bowler, Sandra Herbert, George Levine, Ronald Numbers, Robert Richards, Rebecca Stott, and Robert Young. In recent years, the study of Darwin has begun to take new directions through examinations of Darwin’s writings beyond the Origin and the Journal of Researches, investigations of Darwin’s impact on previously overlooked areas (e.g., art and visual culture, psychology and the emotions), and new approaches to Darwinism’s impact on Victorian attitudes to gender and courtship, race and empire, literature and publishing. The fact that Darwin’s complete writings and 5,000 pieces of his correspondence have been made available in searchable online databases promises to open up Darwin scholarship even further.

Where is the study of Darwin and Darwinism in Victorian culture heading? This special issue will attempt to showcase work that pursues these new approaches or offers even newer ones. I invite essays on all aspects of Darwin and Darwin studies in the Victorian period from scholars working in a range of areas, including history and history of science, literary and cultural criticism, art history, and history of the book.

The deadline for submissions is July 15, 2008. Essays of not more than 8,000 words (including endnotes) should be prepared in MLA Style. Submissions and inquiries should be sent directly to the issue’s guest editor:

Jonathan Smith
Humanities Department
University of Michigan-Dearborn
4901 Evergreen Road
Dearborn, MI 48128

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