October 2016

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This year the Oxford University Museum of Natural History has been hosting a series of exhibitions, events and residencies under the theme Visions of Nature. In December, BSLS members John Holmes and Janine Rogers will be taking part in three public events at the museum as part of this celebration of art and poetry inspired by the natural world:

  • On 1st December (7-9 p.m.), John and Janine will be giving a joint talk entitled Building the Book of Nature, drawing on their research for their Canadian SSHRC-funded research project on natural history museum architecture. This talk will explore the architecture and art of the museum, including a guided tour and a pop-up exhibition of designs by John Ruskin, the Pre-Raphaelites and others.
  • On 7th December (6.30-8.30 p.m.), they will be joined by Stephen Wildman, Director of the Ruskin Library and Research Centre, together with researchers and teachers from Oxford, to discuss how science and art have worked together in visualising nature throughout the ages.
  • Finally, on 12th December (7-9 p.m.), John will be joining the museum’s three poets-in-residence, John Barnie, Steven Matthews and Kelley Swain (one-time BSLS Secretary), to launch a new anthology of poems inspired by and connected with the museum, entitled Guests of Time.

All three events are free and open to all. If you would like to reserve seats in advance, please click here.

Applications are invited from outstanding candidates who have research and teaching interests in interdisciplinary literary studies, in an area such as (but not restricted to) digital humanities, literature and the environment, literature and visual culture, or cross-media narrative. The successful candidate will be expected to have an excellent research and teaching profile, commensurate with career stage, which will complement the English Department’s existing strengths. She or he will be able to make a significant contribution to undergraduate teaching, and to teach widely and flexibly across a range of periods and subjects. She or he may also be asked to contribute to postgraduate teaching and examining. This post offers an exciting opportunity to make a major contribution to the development of English’s interdisciplinary research and teaching and the successful candidate will demonstrate an outstanding level of expertise in both literary and interdisciplinary research.


Closing date: 20th November 2016. For further details click here.

October 20-21, 2016

 Life sciences: imagination and scientific discourse (late 18th – 19th centuries)

Thursday October 20 – 9:00 a.m. -12:30 p.m.

Opening – 9:30 a.m.

Professor Marek Więckowski, director of the Académie polonaise des Sciences in Paris

Professor Miroslaw Loba, Adam Mickiewicz University

Professor Gisèle Séginger, Paris-Est University and Institut Universitaire de France

SCIENTIFIC IMAGINATION AND SPIRITUALIST issues – 10:15 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Chair: Gisèle Séginger

Mirosław Loba (Adam Mickiewicz University – Poznań)

"Vitalism : between science et morality"

Marta Sukiennicka (Adam Mickiewicz University – Poznań)

"Imagination in Charles Bonnet’s scientific writings"

Bénédicte Percheron (Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée)

"Louis Figuier’s La Terre avant le déluge : aesthetic and spiritualist issues"

Thursday 20 october  – 14:30 p.m. – 17:30 p.m.

strategies and debates: the ambiguities of scientific writing

Chair: Michael Soubbotnik

Barbara Łuczak (Adam Mickiewicz University)

"Transmitting knowledge and training the mind : botany for women in the Bibliothèque universelle des dames"

Wojciech Sawala (Adam Mickiewicz University)

"Franz Joseph Gall : autobiography and bio-politics"

Patrycja Tomczak (Adam Mickiewicz University)

"Regio Gigantum : three naturalists (Darwin, d'Orbiny, Domeyko) in Patagonia"

Carmen Husti (Paris-Est University)

"Georges Pouchet’s La pluralité des races humaines : imagination in scientific discourse"

Friday October 21 - 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Metaphors and models

Chair: Mirosław Loba

Gisèle SÉGINGER (Paris-Est University and Institut Universitaire de France)

"Quinet’s La Création : scientific and historic writing"

Azélie Fayolle (Paris-Est University)

"Claude Bernard’s living machine"

Michael Soubbotnik (Paris-Est University)

"Birth of the tree: from Darwin’s early Notebooks to the closing paragraph of the Origin of Species"

Friday October 21 – 14:00 p.m. -18:30 p.m.

Between observation and poetic reverie : the scientific wonders

Chair:  Patrycja Tomczak

Juliette Azoulai (Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée)

"Living light: naturalistic discourse on the phosphorescence of the sea in the 19th century"

Yohann ringuede (Université Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée)

"Imagination and observation : Jean-Henri Fabre’s Souvenirs entomologiques"

Amazing science (exhibition)

16.00 p.m. -18:30 p.m.

Claude ECKEN (writer)

"Science in fiction: a creative presentation"

Claire LISSALDE (Curator of the exhibition and INSERM audiovisual department director).

Guided tour of the Amazing science exhibition


Organization and coordination : Gisèle Séginger: gisele.seginger@u-pem.fr


8 & 9 June 2017
Clifton Hill House Function Foyer

Although it is notoriously difficult to define, anxiety has long been theorized in a variety of fields, from philosophy to psychology, theology to neuroscience. Since 1980, when DSM-III separated anxiety neurosis into ‘panic disorder’ and ‘generalized anxiety disorder’, our understanding of and response to anxiety has become ever more pathologized, and the list of symptoms and types of anxiety has changed and grown through DSM-IV (1994) and, most recently, DSM-V (2013).

The conference will respond to some of these most recent trends in the study of anxiety by considering how our evolving understanding of it as a cultural condition might affect the ways in which we represent, discuss, and deal with it.

Confirmed Keynote Speakers

Prof. Catherine Belling (Northwestern University)

For more information, please see the Cultures of Anxiety website.


The Politics of Literature and Science

Queen’s Building, University of Exeter, Saturday, 12 November, 2016

Organiser: Corinna Wagner (Department of English, Exeter University)


This BSLS Winter Symposium will explore relationships between politics, science, medicine, literature and visual culture. We will take ‘politics’ in both its broadest sense—considering for example, the politics of the body, the politics of scientific institutions, and how scientific and political discourse has shaped imaginative forms of expression (and vice versa). We will also take ‘politics’ in a more specific sense, to address how literary writers and artists actively intervened in specific medico-political debates, or how their novels, poems and plays acted as ‘mediums’ of scientific and political cross-pollination.

We would also like to invite papers that focus on the current field. What are the politics of researching and teaching in the field of literature and science? Contributors might want to reflect on engagement and collaboration, for example. The BSLS Winter Symposium will provide an opportunity for practitioners—artists, poets and novelists—and academics and theorists to share their methods and findings.

In terms of topics, contributors might consider how literary writers and artists raised and addressed scientific questions about, for instance:

  • medical treatments
  • the design of medical and scientific institutions
  • the collaborative or conflicting goals of scientists and governments
  • environmental policies and climate change issues
  • urban reform
  • social health reform policy
  • the uses of statistics and data
  • the scientific and political goals of empire
  • the application of science to issues of race
  • tropical medicine


One of the emphases of this one-day symposium will be the idea of transhistorical and transdisciplinary inheritance and exchange. For instance, how did eighteenth- or nineteenth-century ideas about contagion, excess, monstrosity, materialism, rationality, waste, dirt, geography or geology migrate between scientific, political and literary realms? And, what are the legacies of this migration? What historical continuities exist between past and present?

Lastly, we particularly invite graduate students to participate in a ‘policy show &tell’: these are 10 minute slots in which each presenter suggests ways their own humanities research could address or attempt to solve a current medical/scientific/health problem.

Please submit short proposals to Corinna Wagner on c.m.wagner@ex.ac.uk by 31 October, 2016

University of Bristol, 6-8 April 2017

The twelfth annual conference of the British Society for Literature and Science will take place at the University of Bristol, from Thursday 6 April until Saturday 8 April 2017.

Keynote talks will be given by Professor Havi Carel (University of Bristol), Professor Robert Mitchell (Duke University), and Professor Ralph O’Connor (University of Aberdeen).

The BSLS invites proposals for twenty-minute papers, or panels of three papers, on any subjects within the field of literature and science.

In addition, we are hoping to put together sessions with looser, non-traditional formats, and would welcome proposals from any person or persons interested in making presentations of approximately ten minutes from notes rather than completed papers. Our hope is that the latter format will encourage longer Q&A sessions with more discussion. If you have a topic or research area which would suit such a discussion, we would also like to hear from you. Other innovative formats are also welcomed, but please email your suggestion to the organisers for consideration well in advance of the submission deadline.

Please send an abstract (c.200 words) and short biographical note to the conference organiser by no later than 5pm GMT, Friday 9 December 2016. Please include the abstract and biographical note in the body of the email and not in an attachment. All proposers of a paper or panel will receive notification of the results by the end of January 2017. Proposals and all enquiries should be sent to Ros Powell (bsls-2017@bristol.ac.uk).

The conference fee will be waived for two graduate students in exchange for written reports on the conference, to be published in the BSLS Newsletter. If you are interested in being selected for one of these awards, please mention this when sending in your proposal. To qualify you will need to be registered for a postgraduate degree at the time of the conference.

Please note that those attending the conference will need to make their own arrangements for accommodation. Information on local hotels will be made available soon.

Membership: conference delegates will need to register as members of the BSLS (annual membership: £25 waged/ £10 unwaged). It will be possible to join the BSLS when registering for the conference online.

Reviews that have appeared on the British Society for Literature and Science website in September 2016

A list of books for which we are currently seeking reviewers can be found here.

Please email Gavin Budge on <G.Budge@herts.ac.uk> if you would like to propose a book for review  - anything published from 2011 onwards will be considered.

This is a list of books that are currently in the process of being reviewed.

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The Commission on Science and Literature organized two events in the past summer. The workshop 'Nature, Humans and God(s)' was held on the island of Syros in Greece on 8-9 July. The 2nd International Conference on Science and Literature was held at Echophysics in Poellau, Austria, on 7-9 September. The proceedings of both meetings are to be published. In particular, the proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Science and Literature will be published by Living Editions, Austria.

We have decided that the Syros workshop should be the first of a series of seminars, each of which will have its own theme, to take place in the first week of July each year. The 2nd Syros workshop, which will have as its subject Beyond Nature in Science and Literature, will be held from 3-5 July 2017. Though relatively early, proposals for this Workshop are welcome. Our emails can be found on the contacts page of the CoSciLit website.

The 3rd International Conference on Science and Literature will take place in 2018, place and dates to be decided.

We would like also to remind you that we will be holding a symposium at the 25th International Congress of History of Science and Technology, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 23 to 29 July 2017. The deadline for abstracts is 5th November 2017.

Please send abstracts for the Rio Congress and proposals and enquiries regarding the 2nd Syros workshop to gvlahakis@yahoo.com.


George Vlahakis, John Holmes and Kostas Tampakis


This term there will be two seminars on Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century at Oxford:

Wednesday 19 October
Dr Andrew Mangham, University of Reading
'Have ye ever seen a child clemmed to death?': Elizabeth Gaskell and the Physiology of Starvation
5.30 – 7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College
Wednesday 9 November 2016 (Week 5)
Dr kitt price, Queen Mary, University of London
Psychic Dreams and Newspapers in the Late Nineteenth Century
5.30 - 7.00, Seminar Room 5, St Anne’s College

To read more details of the speakers, the series and the Diseases of Modern Life project, click here.

Cafe Culturel (run by students from Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences and Biomedical Sciences, at University of Birmingham) starts a new year of events. The first event in the new calendar, on Tue 18th October 2016, 6:30 pm, at Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum, is workshop/cafe event with the title Cognitive Decline: Presentations and Representations. Starting from the current RSC production of King Lear (https://www.rsc.org.uk/king-lear/), a panel made up of a visual artist (Tom de Freston), a theatre critic (Prof. Russell Jackson) and a psychiatrist (Consultant Femi Oyebode) will present views and then engage in a discussion with the audience on the theme of how the various manifestations of cognitive decline are represented in various forms of art. The evening will comprise a short presentation from the members of the panel, which then will be followed by an extended questions and answers session, to which the public are invited to contribute. You can find more details and perspectives about the event on our Cafe Culturel blog: https://cafeculturelbirmingham.wordpress.com/, or you can contact Dr. Emil Toescu (e.c.toescu@bham.ac.uk); or check the Cafe facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Cafe.Culturel.Birmingham/.

And if you are interested in attending, please book your (free) ticket at https://cafeculturel_cognitivedecline.eventbrite.com. There are only a limited number of seats available, so please register if you are sure that you will be able to attend.

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