BSLS/JLS Essay Prize – The Results

We are delighted to announce that the British Society for Literature and Science and Journal of Literature and Science prize for an essay by an early-career scholar has been won by Kimberley Dimitriadis for her essay “Telescopes in the Drawing-Room: Geometry and Astronomy in George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss”. We offer our congratulations to Kimberley for what the judges agreed was an outstanding and original essay. The essay will be published in the next available issue of JLS, and its author will also receive a prize of £100.

The judging panel wrote: “This year’s prize-winning essay was, in the view of the judges, a model example of the original research that literature and science scholarship can achieve. By offering an entirely fresh reading of George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, Dimitriadis has added a rich new perspective to an already very full critical view. Her rendering of that novel’s interrogation of Victorian astronomy showed a subtle understanding of the history of astronomical work in Britain in the mid-nineteenth century as well as an ability to see that work creatively transformed and reassessed through Eliot’s own particular interests in women’s education and contribution to knowledge.”

There was an exceptionally strong field this year and the judges were especially impressed by two other entries to which they would like to give honourable mentions: Catriona Livingstone for “Experimental Identities: Quantum Physics in Popular Science Writing and Virginia Woolf’s The Waves and Richard Fallon for “Literature Rather than Science: Henry Neville Hutchinson (1856-1927) and the Literary Borderlines of Science Writing”. The authors will be invited to submit their essays too for publication in JLS.

On Catriona’s essay the judges wrote: “This excellent reading of Virginia Woolf’s The Waves via quantum physics not only offers valuable insight into Woolf’s reading of popular physical texts of the period but also offers a method of understanding the relationship between literature and science as a feedback loop in which both disciplines inform one another. This balancing of methodological concerns with the specifics of a closely argued historicist reading is the essay’s strength, and the analysis of method that Livingstone offers is likely to be not only debated further but employed as a useful tool for thinking through the relationship between other texts, authors and sciences.”

On Richard’s essay the judges wrote: “This stylishly-written essay offered up some fascinating insights into Victorian debates on the categorisation of, and relationships between, science writing and popular science writing. As Fallon shows through a detailed case study of science populariser, Henry Neville Hutchinson, there were real concerns in scientific communities about what constituted science and what skills and practices were needed to be called a scientist. In revealing the contexts and specificities of these debates the essay tells us a great deal about the emerging relationship between literature and science and provides further nuance to our understanding of the two cultures.”

We would like to thank all the BSLS members who submitted essays for this year's prize. We were delighted by how many submissions we received and thoroughly enjoyed reading them. Between them, they covered a tremendous range of topics, from the early modern to the contemporary, with a broad range too of methods and approaches. Together, the articles admirably demonstrated the vibrancy of the literature and science community and its scholarship.