May 2009

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Poetry and Science: The Case of Humphry Davy

Applications are invited for a fully-funded PhD award to study the manuscript and published poetry of the chemist Humphry Davy, 1778–1829. This collaborative award, to be supervised jointly by experts at the University of Salford and the Royal Institution of Great Britain (, will involve the student spending one year based at the Royal Institution in London, transcribing Davy’s poetry and participating in the institution’s public-facing activities.

How to apply:

Application forms can be downloaded at: The closing date for applications is 26 June 2009.

Enquiries should be made to Professor Sharon Ruston, or on 0161 295 5071.

The Oxford Literature and Science seminar is meeting twice termly; all with a research interest in the area are welcome, whether members of the university or not. The second event in Trinity Term 2009 will be held in the Breakfast Room, Merton College, Oxford.

Friday 12 June 2009 (7th week), 2pm.

Jean-François Peyret (founder and director of the Tf2 theatre company, Paris), speaking about Les Variations Darwin.

Peyret's work has included productions such as Les Variations Darwin, Galileo, and Le Cas de Sophie K, all of which involved collaborations with scientists.

Further details about the seminar are to be found at:

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Looking back on the End of Time — Modernism and Beyond

University of East Anglia, UK

Keynote Speakers: Prof. Randall Stevenson (University of Edinburgh) and Dr
Bryony Randall (University of Glasgow)

At the turn of the twentieth century developments in the sciences and
technology seemed to necessitate a radical review of the nature, perhaps
even the existence, of time. This interdisciplinary conference will look
at ways in which key figures from this period conceptualised and
represented these changes, and at how this period has been represented
since. Papers will range from the history of science to philosophy and
literature. Further details on the conference website.

Abstracts of 300-400 words should be sent to Kate Armond or Simon de Bourcier by Wednesday June 3rd 2009.

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DICKENS DAY - Dickens and Science

Saturday 10 October 2009, London

G. H. Lewes famously criticised Dickens’s failure to engage with contemporary scientific thought and proffer psychologically convincing characters, describing them as ‘frogs whose brains have been taken out for physiological purposes’. Recent work, however, has significantly challenged the truism that Dickens was indifferent or even hostile towards the scientific discoveries and discourses of his age. Dubbed a member of ‘the steam-whistle party’ by Ruskin, he was volubly enthusiastic about technological and scientific advancements and discoveries, including steam-driven modes of transport and manufacture, industrialism, geology, evolutionary biology and the mutual relations of humanity and animal life. He also had interests in mesmerism, phrenology and physiology. From his enthusiastic article ‘The Poetry of Science’ (Examiner, 9 December 1848) to Little Dorrit’s fictional locomotive Mr Pancks, who ‘snorted and sniffed and puffed and blew, like a little labouring steam-engine’ and the ‘Megalosaurus’ stalking the opening of Bleak House, Dickens’s oeuvre contains multiple traces of contemporary scientific thought.

This one-day conference seeks to explore scientific and technological ideas and metaphors in Dickens’s novels and journalism and to place his life, work and thought in the context of Victorian science. We invite proposals for 20-minute papers on any aspect of the theme and warmly encourage postgraduate students to apply.

Topics could include but are not limited to:

Darwinian and Lamarckian evolutionary theories and metaphors
Geology and palaeontology
Hereditary transmission of behaviour and the biology of character
Affect and emotion
Inventors and new technologies
Professionalisation and the emergence of science as a discipline
Criminality, detection and forensics
Physiognomy, phrenology and the science of the grotesque
Mesmerism and spiritualism
Psychology, cognition and mental illness
Gender, sexuality and the science and politics of normalisation
Energy and thermodynamics
Psychological (im)plausibility, melodramatic aesthetics and radical politics
The ‘dismal sciences’: economics, political economy and Utilitarianism

Please send proposals (maximum 500 words), together with details of your institutional affiliation (if any) to Holly Furneaux and Ben Winyard, at and The deadline for paper proposals is 31 May 2009.