April 2018

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Registration for the conference is now open and that it closes on the 1st May. The link to registration is here: https://mathematicsandmodernliterature.wordpress.com/register/

There is also a public event on the 3rd May inspired by the conference which is free of charge. It is called 'In Conversation with Emily Howard: Exploring Mathematics, Music and Literature', and includes a live performance from the Royal Northern College of Music's Mathias Quartet who will play some of Emily's compositions inspired by her collaborations with mathematician Marcus du Sautoy. The event also includes special guest Ursula Martin CBE FRSE FREng, Professor of Computer Science at The University of Oxford who will speak further about the mathematics behind these compositions. More details of the event can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/221960785220717/

For this term's Oxford Seminars on Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century, click below:

Science, Medicine and Culture seminars

Conference, Friday 8 June, Birkbeck, London

Experiment can describe both strict testing and speculative ‘trying out’, both proof and exploration; it can also refer to the process, the object, and the material apparatus of these activities. Experiment can have connotations of system or method, as is often prominent in the scientific context, or uncontrolled rule-breaking.

Literature’s relationship to experiment is similarly complex. David Seed has described Science Fiction as a kind of thought experiment, while Amanda Rees has emphasized not the genre’s plots or themes but its logical consistency, both drawing on the sense of rigour that experiment denotes. Struggling to stitch a chapter together, Laurence Sterne’s narrator Tristram Shandy suggests a less controlled process: ‘one would think I took a pleasure in running into difficulties of this kind, merely to make fresh experiments of getting out of ‘em’. In both of these cases, experiment is not only a process of attentive observation—the ‘empirical’ quality valued by many forms of writing—but a directing imaginative and textual force.

Bruno Latour describes experiment as a fundamentally literary technology, or ‘a text about a nontextual situation, later tested by others to decide whether or not it is simply a text’. This conference seeks to elaborate on the association between text and experiment, by examining experiment’s literary forms in the century leading up to the generic delineation of science fiction. As the practices, institutions, and rhetorics of natural philosophy transform through the long nineteenth century into self-identifying disciplines, what power does the notion of experiment exert? What impact did these reorganizations of knowledge have on the imaginative contours of experiment? How did experimental forms aim to facilitate new thoughts, sensations, ideas? In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor confesses an enabling moral suspension crucial to the horror genre: ‘During my first experiment, a kind of enthusiastic frenzy had blinded me to the horror of my employment’. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species begins with an experiment as literary as it is scientific, explaining evolution by means of the analogy of variation in domestic pigeons. Emily Dickinson’s creation of a private herbarium resembles her ordered collection of her poems in bound ‘fascicles’, a similarity intimated in the floral illustration of the first edition of her Poems. Other experimental forms might be found in the relationship between abandoned experiments and literary fragments such as Coleridge’s partial ‘Theory of Life’, or in hybrid poetic forms which drew on and manipulated contemporary medical and scientific models of experimental knowledge.

How are we to understand experiment in these texts? This may refer to the techniques and styles of scientific writing, whether its desire to speak transparently or to inspire wonder, but also to the textures of experimental literature, which can draw on experiment’s exploratory nature to cultivate difficulty or confusion. In what sense ought we to think of texts—both scientific and literary—as experimental processes in their own right; not as artefacts that records methods or results, but as technologies that create them?

Speakers include:

former Chair of BSLS, Martin Willis (Cardiff)


Will Abberley (Sussex)

Jeremy Davies (Leeds)

Katherine Ebury (Sheffield)

Timothy Fulford (De Montfort)

Dahlia Porter (Glasgow)

Register via the Eventbrite page https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/experimental-forms-writing-science-and-medicine-in-the-long-nineteenth-century-tickets-44604422027

The programme of the conference will be available soon on http://www.cncs.bbk.ac.uk/. For more information please contact: C19@bbk.ac.uk

The 2018 Science in Public conference is taking place at Cardiff University on December 17-19th, with the theme of Intersecting Science. The CFP is now open, and more details can also be found on the conference website at https://www.sip2018cardiff.com:

Abstract Submission

We are now accepting abstracts for SiP2018. Abstracts for regular papers should be no more than 250 words. We also welcome proposals for diverse formats of presentation and encourage people to suggest their own panels, practical workshops, roundtables, author-meets-critics events, and other alternative session formats. Please make this clear in your submission.

All abstracts should be submitted by Friday 18th May at 5pm via the submission portal. Click the button to the right to go there now. Some funds may be available to support proposed alternative format sessions. Notification of acceptance is expected to be given by mid-June 2018.


SiP 2018 will be a low-cost conference, with a small number of bursaries available to early career, student or low-income scholars. Delegates will be asked to book their own accommodation (recommendations will be available on the website at https://www.sip2018cardiff.com).


We are committed to ensuring the conference is accessible to everyone. If you have any accessibility needs for attending the conference and/or for presenting, please let us know.

Contact and further Info

Any questions, please contact the SiP team at SiP2018@cardiff.ac.uk. For more information, you can join our mailing list, follow us on Twitter (@SiP2018), or subscribe for email updates below.

Reviews that have appeared on the British Society for Literature and Science website in March 2018

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