January 2009

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Cultivating Empire: Exploration, Science and Literature

An Interdisciplinary Conference featuring the work and influence of Sir Joseph Banks

Lincoln, UK, 17-18 April 2009

Featured speakers: Richard Holmes (biographer of Shelley and Coleridge and
author of The Age of Wonder); G.S. Rousseau (historian of medicine: co-author
of Gout: the Patrician Malady); Stephen Daniels (geographer: biographer of
Humphry Repton); John Bonehill (art historian: co-author of William Hodges
1747-1797: The Art of Exploration); Anna Agnarsdottir (historian: editor of
Banks's Iceland papers); Martin Davies (novelist: author of The Conjurer's
Bird); David Robinson (historian of Banks and Lincolnshire); Neil Chambers
(Director of the Banks Archive and Editor of his Indian and Pacific

This multidisciplinary conference will examine the intersections between the
local and the global--the English shire and the colonial shore-- in the years
1750-1850. the conference has as its centre
Sir Joseph Banks but also aims more broadly to present critical work in the
following areas:

- the history of exploration and of colonial settlement (e.g. in Australiasia, the
South Pacific, Africa, India, the NW coast of America, the Poles, and in Britain
- the development of colonialism as a system (for instance, the application to a
global network of forms of administration and control pioneered on the English
country estate)
- the cultural impact of the exploration and settlement of previously-unknown
regions (e.g. in verbal and visual representations: art, theatre, poetry and
fiction, journalism, travel writing; and vis-a-vis Orientalism, Omai, Tahiti,
and India)
- natural philosophy in Britain and abroad (e.g. plant exchange, imperial botany,
geological mapping, imperial medicine, the Royal Society, Kew Gardens, Hooker)
agricultural improvement at home and in the colonies (e.g. Captain Bligh and the
breadfruit scheme, the import and export of crops and livestock, the Royal
Society of Arts)
- local history: the relationship of antiquarian study to the practice of natural
philosophy in the empire
- Sir Joseph Banks: any aspect of his life and work
archives and correspondence: the role of collections, letters and information
stores, then and now, in knowledge-production and staging empire
- the late eighteenth-century gentry as a class
- the exchange and cultural meanings of technologies and objects
- gender and sexuality in the fields of colonialism and exploration.

Submissions for 20 minute papers are invited from historians of science,
literary critics, geographers, students of local history, garden historians,
colonial critics and all others interested in the cultures of late eighteenth
and early nineteenth-century Britain. Abstracts of no more than 200 words should be sent by email to tim.fulford@ntu.ac.uk by 20 February 2009.

Organisers: Neil Chambers, Sir Joseph Banks Archive, Nottingham Trent
University; Tim Fulford, Dept ELH, Nottingham Trent University; Ian Packer,
School of Humanities and Performing Arts, University of Lincoln; The Sir
Joseph Banks Society.

A provisional programme for our March 2009 conference at the University of Reading is now available along with information for delegates to register and book accommodation.

Rebecca Stott
Darwin in the Literary World - one of six of the annual Cambridge Darwin Lecture Series
Lady Mitchell Hall, West Road, at 5.30-6.30 on Friday 6th Feb

Within months of Darwin’s publication of The Origin of Species, novelists, poets and artists began to turn Darwin’s ideas into art. That they have continued to do so up to the present day is a testimony to the imaginative reach of Darwin’s ideas as well as to the extent to which they transformed ways of seeing. Darwinism can be seen running through some of the late nineteenth century’s most richly imaginative prose and poetry including Kingsley’s The Water Babies, Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, H.G. Wells’ Island of Dr Moreau and Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. But where nineteenth-century writers may have seen hybrid monsters, degeneration and extinction, Darwinism has come to have new meanings for each subsequent generation of writers and artists. Novelist and academic Rebecca Stott will show this perpetual re-making and ‘making new’ of Darwin’s ideas by taking a literary journey through late nineteenth-century fiction, to the poetry of Thomas Hardy, Ted Hughes and Ruth Padel and to the contemporary novels of Ian McEwan and A.S. Byatt to show that writers have not just re-used Darwin’s ideas but have translated, adapted and extended them in fascinating ways.


Rebecca Stott is Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in Norwich where she teaches both creative writing and nineteenth-century literature. As an academic she is the author of a number of books and articles about nineteenth-century poets such as Tennyson (1996) and Elizabeth Barrett Browning (2003), as well as books on the cross-fertilisations of literature and science such as The Fabrication of the Late Nineteenth-Century Femme Fatale (1996) and Oyster (2003). In 2003 she published Darwin and the Barnacle (Faber, 2003) a novelistic study of the eight years Darwin spent dissecting barnacles which received considerable acclaim and reached a wide readership. As a novelist she is the author of Ghostwalk (2003), a historical thriller and ghost story about Isaac Newton’s alchemy set in seventeenth-century Cambridge, which was shortlisted for two literary awards and has been translated into fifteen different languages including Mandarin and Russian. Her second novel, The Coral Thief (2009), a love story set in post-Napoleonic Paris in which a group Lamarkian savants stage an audacious theft from a museum in the Jardin des Plantes in 1815, will be published in August 2009. Her next academic book, Speculators: Poets and Philosophers of Evolution, a study of the migration of evolutionary ideas across Europe pre-Darwin, will be published in 2010 by Chicago University Press.