September 2010

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Grace Stebbing

We have been asked to alert the membership to the research potential of writings by Victorian writer, Grace Stebbing.  Her work has yet to receive any form of scholarly attention and very little is known about her.  Indeed, despite her numerous volumes (many of which are listed on Google Books), few if any are currently in print.

It is thought that Stebbing was the daughter of  Henry Stebbing (1799-1883), British poet, preacher, and historian.  An 1898 edition of the Dictionary of National Biography suggests that 'two of Stebbing's sons, Mr. William Stebbing and Mr. Thomas Roscoe Rede Stebbing, F.R.S., have distinguished themselves respectively in literature and science; while two daughters, Beatrice (now Mrs. Batty) and Miss Grace Stebbing, are also well known as authors.  The eldest son, John (d. 1885), translated Humboldt’s ‘Letters to a Lady’ and Their’s ‘History of France under Napoleon’...'

We would be happy to learn of any members with a scholarly interest in Grace Stebbing,  knowledge of anyone who is investigating her work, or someone who would like to do so.

BSLS Book Prize 2010

The British Society for Literature and Science is pleased to invite nominations for the annual BSLS Book Prize. The prize of £150, together with a year's free membership of the BSLS, will be awarded for the best book published in English in 2010 in the field of literature and science. Monographs, edited volumes, editions and books of creative writing are all eligible for consideration, excepting books wholly or partly written by members of the BSLS executive.

Please send nominations, giving the author(s) or editor(s), title and publisher, to Dr John Holmes (book-prize convenor) at, with 'BSLS Book Prize' as the subject heading. The deadline for receipt of nominations is 17 January 2011.

* The book prize was launched in 2007. The past winners are Ralph O'Connor for 'The Earth on Show: Fossils and the Poetics of Popular Science, 1802-1856' (University of Chicago Press, 2007); George Levine for 'Realism, Ethics and Secularism: Essays on Victorian Literature and Science' (Cambridge University Press, 2008); and Leah Knight for 'Of Books and Botany in Early Modern England: Sixteenth-Century Plants and Print Culture' (Ashgate, 2009).

* Nominations are invited from BSLS members and from publishers. The authors or editors of the nominated books need not be BSLS members. BSLS members are welcome to nominate their own books.

* The book must have 2010 as its publication date.

* The winner of this year's prize will be announced at the sixth annual conference of the BSLS in April 2011 at Homerton College, Cambridge.

* The prize will be paid by means of a cheque made out in pounds sterling.

Call for Papers:

The logic of the virus has become endemic. Viral ads mirror contagion to convey their message. Computers and systems are struck down by infections. Pigs and birds are transformed into sinister hosts. Terrorists form cells and virulent covert networks, globalisation becomes a creeping homogenisation attacking the idiosyncratic, and media rapidly evolve to overcome any censorial attempt at information immunisation.

We all live with the virus. Or perhaps, as the planet’s most abundant biological entity, the virus lives with us. It crosses boundaries of species and holds genotype in little regard, finding hosts in every form of life. This tenacious agent has escaped the confines of laboratories and medical institutions, and insinuated itself into all strands of our cultural, political, and technological discourses.

Excursions invites submissions that examine the theme of ‘Virus’, in all its potential interpretations. Submissions may wish to consider, but are by no means limited to:

• The virus as a model and/or metaphor
• The politics and economics of the pandemic, epidemic and endemic
• Viral dissemination
• The synthetic and the viral
• The viral and systemic vulnerability
• The socio-cultural and scientific history of the virus
• Life, death and the place of the virus in evolution
• Bacteriophages or the good virus
• Contamination and the text/body/performance
• Parasitism vs. viral infection
• Viral hosts and hospitality
• The rhetoric of the virus/viral rhetoric
• Artistic (re)presentations of/responses to virulent virtual media
• What does immunity mean?
• Viral identities – from living with infection to infectious trends
• The antiseptic space

Papers should be between 3,000 and 5,000 words, follow MHRA formatting guidelines and be submitted via the Excursions website. Please contact regarding other forms of submission (i.e. film, photography, poetry etc). Please include an abstract and a brief biography (no more than 150 words) along with your submission, not later than 30th October 2010.


Explora International Conference

31 March–1 April 2011

CAS (EA – 801) / Toulouse Natural History Museum

Extinction has always fascinated and intrigued men, be they men of science or men of letters. The history of the Earth has been marked by five major mass extinctions, the most famous being undoubtedly the one that saw the end of the dinosaurs on Earth at the close of the Cretaceous period. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the increasing number of paleontological discoveries challenged certainties about the origins and place of man on Earth. The scientists’ search for extinct species and their conclusions, or surmises, undermined literalist readings of the Bible. Hinting at the issue of extinction, the discoveries paved the way for the development of evolutionary theory, climaxing with the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species in 1859. The study of fossils was thus poised between conflicting interpretations of the evolution of life on Earth: fossils crystallized conflicts, bringing to light the tensions between science and religion and epitomizing the period’s questionings as to the past and future of man on Earth.

This interdisciplinary conference aims to look at the way in which extinct species and past ecosystems have been represented and sensationalized from the nineteenth century to the present time. It will examine how man’s sudden awareness of species extinction (from the Dodo bird and the Moa to the more recent American pigeon) and/or the threat of extinction have informed literature and the arts, particularly focussing on the impact of climate change in literary and non-literary narratives, on the issue of man’s (in)significance in the history of the Earth and on the literary and artistic significance of end-of-world scenarios.

We invite 20-minute papers that engage with, but are not limited to, the following topics :

- the history of paleontology and fossil classification

- the history of fossil collecting

- the popularisation of geology and paleontology

- the reconstructions of extinct species

- representations of extinct species in literature and the arts

- representations of ecosystems in literature and the arts

- extinct species, ecology and the development of ecocriticism

- theories of mass extinction

- end-of-world scenarios

Please send 300-word proposals (attached as a .doc-file) together with a short biographical note to Deadline for submissions: 20 November 2010.

Medicine at the Margins

Friday, April 15th 2011, University of Glamorgan

Medicine at the Margins is the RCLAS Conference 2011, organised in partnership with the Glamorgan History Research Unit.  Conference sponsored by the Wellcome Trust and by the International Gothic Association.

Plenary Speaker: Dr Lauren Kassell, Pembroke College Cambridge

Throughout the history of medicine there have always been knowledges and practices considered to be (or portrayed as) outside the normal or orthodox: these include early modern popular and magical healing, mesmerism, ‘quack’ remedies, and alternative or complementary medicine. They have all existed at the boundaries of acceptability and legitimacy, and these boundaries have frequently shifted. Similarly, some illnesses have placed patients beyond the margins of acceptability. Mental health problems, sexually-transmitted diseases and conditions incurring great disfigurement have all been intertwined with social concepts of the taboo.

What exactly can be found at these margins of medicine, and who determined them? How did practitioners and patients understand unorthodox practices, and how did this affect the treatment choices they made? Were patients and practitioners prepared to subvert social and cultural expectations in order to treat disease? How far have patients hidden or disguised the symptoms of a taboo illness, and how have doctors reacted to patients with shameful or forbidden illnesses? How were such practices culturally represented?

This conference offers the opportunity to bring fresh insight to the energetic debates about the concepts of ‘orthodox’ and ‘unorthodox’ in medicine by exploring the peripheries of the medical experience through history and its cultural forms. We welcome proposals for papers on any of the following themes, or others which potential participants recognise as relevant to the conference:

  • Relationships between the medical orthodoxy and laity
  • The impact of folklore in medical history
  • Sufferers’ experiences and narratives of unorthodox medicine
  • Geographical margins, such as rural areas and provincial towns
  • Concepts of health, well-being and disability through time
  • Taboo illnesses or afflictions
  • Self-inflicted injury
  • Status illnesses or injuries
  • Representations of health and medicine in art and literature
  • Medicine and colonial expansion
  • Medicine and ethnology

Please send proposals of no more than 200 words, with a brief personal CV of 50 words by September 30th 2010 to Dr Alun Withey or Professor Andrew Smith.  E-mail: Dr Alun Withey, History ( and Professor Andrew Smith, RCLAS (

Conference Organisers: Professor Andy Smith (RCLAS Co-Director); Dr Alun Withey (History Research Unit); Dr Fiona Reid (History Research Unit).

20 - 21 November 2010
(in association with the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals and the Association for Research in Popular Fictions)

Keynote Speaker: Dr Jim Mussell (Birmingham University)

Roundtable Session: advice for postgraduates and early career researchers

You are invited to contribute proposals on the theme of "Cultural Identities in the Victorian Periodical Press", for a parallel strand that will run at the Annual Association for Research in Popular Fictions conference.  The conference's main theme is "Popular Fictions: Selling Culture?".  The strand co-ordinators, Dr Clare Horrocks and Dr Amber Regis, on behalf of the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals, are keen to attract papers which focus specifically on how culture was both marketed and commodified in the Victorian Periodical Press - whether that was through the identity of an author, editor, region or even a periodical itself.

Suggested themes include, but are not limited to:

.         How readers are interpellated
.         Specific strategies for negotiating new cultural texts and formations
.         Periodicals and newspapers as a 'brand'
.         Use of illustration
.         Religious, regional, class and gendered narratives
.         Editorials and opinion pieces
.         Feuds, scandals and conflicts
.         Autobiography and life-writing
.         Controversies and discoveries
.         Secrecy and sensation

Please send abstracts of 250 - 300 words to Dr Clare Horrocks by Friday 16 September 2010 at<>.  Alternatively please write to Dr Clare Horrocks and Dr Amber Regis at Dean Walters Building, Liverpool John Moores University, St James Road, Liverpool, L1 7BR.

BSLS members might be interested in the Focus section of the latest issue of Isis. It's free to access, at the following links: