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The BSLS Winter Symposium is being jointly organised between the University of Sheffield and the University of Aberdeen on Saturday the 28th of November 2020.

As with the successful online conference earlier this year, this virtual Symposium will be held on Microsoft Teams. Speakers from the planned April conference will be providing their papers in various formats, hosted on the BSLS website during the week of the 23rd of November.

The keynote speaker will be Professor Angela Wright (University of Sheffield) and a separate training session for PGRs and ECRs will also be provided.

This event is free and open to all, but please register for the Symposium (and separately, if relevant, for the PGR/ECR session) via Eventbrite by the 18th of November.

Four Courts Press would like us to know that they have published an excellent range of children's literature titles on issues such as: childhood in Irish society, and politics and ideology in children's literature, while subject matter ranges from works by Jonathan Swift, Maria Edgeworth, Anne Enright, James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. Log onto their website to begin browsing and don't forget that all online orders receive an automatic 10% discount. A full flyer for the series can be found here.

A Special Issue of Configurations, to be published in early 2022

Editors: Verity Burke (Stavanger, Norway) and Will Tattersdill (Birmingham, UK)

“When a science-fiction protagonist experiences an epiphany in a museum the event enacts in a very precise way the preoccupations of the genre itself.”

Robert Crossley

Since Crossley wrote of Wells’s Palace of Green Porcelain in 1990, comparatively little work has sought to develop our understanding of the relationships between science fiction (sf) and museum spaces. Yet not only has sf continued to depict past and future sites of heritage - museum displays have themselves arguably absorbed and reflected sf’s thematic preoccupations and rhetorical techniques. This special issue of Configurations aims to focus on the breadth of interchanges between sf and museums, focussing on real life displays as well as fictitious institutions and inviting contributions from museum studies, literary criticism, STS, and any other interested disciplines.

We welcome papers that speak to any interpretation of the issue theme, including but by no means limited to discussions of:

  • Displays or exhibitions representing science fiction, or dedicated collections such as Allendale (UK) or the proposed Museum of Science Fiction in Washington, DC.
  • Sf considered as an element in museum displays about something else (science fiction as a means of scicomm, storytelling, or engagement).
  • The “science-fictionality” of modern museum display techniques (for example Augmented Reality).
  • The representation of the heritage sector in films, novels, comics and other sf media.
  • Science-fictional engagements with issues of object repatriation or postcolonial museum ethics (such as in Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti).
  • Displays which present ‘counterfactual’ histories or engage in some other way, explicitly or implicitly, with the contingency or speculation implied by sf.
  • Faux taxidermy and the display of mythical or fake animals; fake or hypothetical inventions or engineering; imagined alien (or ancient) life.
  • Any aspect of the conservation or archival preservation of sf’s materials (books, costumes, props, scripts, magazines, etc), or the representation of acts of conservation in published sf.

Articles of up to 10,000 words are invited for submission by 21st May 2021. Informal queries may be sent ahead of time to House style is Chicago 16 - full details here. Essays will be fully peer reviewed.

A Gothic-Without-Borders Conference in March 2021, fully online, hosted by the Department of World Languages and Literatures (WLL) at Simon Fraser University (SFU), Vancouver, Canada, coordinated by the SFU Center for Educational Excellence (CEE), and co-sponsored by the International Gothic Association (IGA) and others.

Deadline for proposals: October 31, 2020

The conference organizers herewith call for proposals for papers on how forms of the Gothic deal with the critical issues arising from racism, social injustice, populism, mass infection, and the relation of each of these to contagion in at least one of its many forms – the most pressing issues of our current moment -- now and throughout world history.

Read the full CFP here.

For a full CfP click here.

It is often assumed that the eugenics propaganda and involuntary sterilisation programs of the early 20th century, aimed at those with physical and mental ‘defects’ ceased after World War II. However, unethical eugenic experimentation and practice aimed at the poor, the promiscuous, the illiterate, the sexually deviant, the dangerous and the incarcerated continued in countries such as America and Sweden during the 1960s and 1970s. Non---consensual, compulsory sterilisations and coercive eugenics state practices have continued in the 21st century.

Contemporary immigration controls aimed to exclude the entry of undesirable others into ‘near perfect societies’ and discourses of developing world overpopulation suggest that postwar social policy continues ideas and mechanisms incubated within the eugenics movement. Likewise, recent discourse in relation to COVID---19 has highlighted discussions about the shameful history of unethical experimentation and surgery upon BAME communities and their pervasive mistrust of clinical research.

We invite chapters that examine the ways in which representations of the body and gender within literature and visual culture (including film, television, graphic novels, comics, and video games) from the eighteenth century to the present day have engagedwith and challenged political, religious, cultural and social attitudes towards eugenics, genetic ancestries and genetic technologies. Contributors may focus upon the ways in which genetic technologies have enabled individual choices and challenged deeplyentrenched social issues such as racism, sexism and heterosexism.

How to Submit:
Chapter Proposal Submission Deadline: 1 November 2020. Please include (i) an abstract (no more than 200 words), (ii) a chapter proposal of 1,000 to 2,000 words clearly explaining the aims and concerns of your proposed chapter, (iii) a copy of yourC.V. and (iv) your contact details.
Final Acceptance Notification: 1 February 2021
Full Chapter Submission Deadline: 1 April 2021

Guidelines for Submissions:
Final chapter word length: 8,000 words max.
Contact Details: Please send your submissions to the editors at: For a full CfP click here.

From the ‘waves of sound, transmitted o’er the line’ in Jones Very’s ‘The Telephone’ (1877) to the ‘thin voice speak[ing] / from a drowning world’ in Imtiaz Dharker’s ‘Six Rings’ (2018), telephones have been calling in and across literary texts for almost one hundred and fifty years. But although considerable research on the smartphone has been undertaken in recent media and cultural studies, the relationship between telephony and literature remains largely neglected. In fact, as Nicholas Royle points out in Telepathy and Literature (1991), ‘really we have no idea what a telephone is, or what a voice is, or when or how. Least of all when it is linked up with the question of literature’. Taking the ‘question of literature’ as its starting point, this edited volume of essays will address the telephone’s propensity to mediate but also to interrupt communication, as well as the ways in which it taps into some of the most urgent concerns of the modern and contemporary age, including surveillance, mobility, resistance, responsibility, power and warfare. Exploring its complex, multiple and mutating functions in literary texts from the nineteenth century to the present day, the proposed volume will consider both historical and recent manifestations of the telephone, and its capacity to call across borders, languages, and cultures.

Building on the 2020 Telepoetics online conference, and following strong interest from publishers including Edinburgh University Press, we invite proposals for essays (6500-8000 words) that explore the relationship between literature and telephony in a range of global contexts and from the nineteenth century to the present day. Topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • privacy and surveillance
  • communications warfare
  • mobility, migration, and globalization
  • technologies of desire
  • telephony as translation
  • textual interference, interruption or interception
  • lyric calling and texting
  • telephony and D/deaf experience
  • telephony and labour
  • ethics and answerability
  • voice and address
  • networks and communicative landscapes
  • distraction and attention
  • telephony and the embodied/disembodied voice
  • telephony and catastrophe
  • telephony and contamination

Please submit to the editors by 1 September 2020:

  • The title of your essay
  • A 300-word synopsis outlining the content of your essay
  • A list of the key authors and/or texts covered in your essay
  • The estimated word count for your essay (this should be between 6500-8000 words)
  • The number and details of any illustrations that you wish to include, and a brief statement about why these illustrations are essential to accompany the text
  • A 150-word author biography, including your institutional affiliation and contact details

Please note that if you plan to include material in copyright (e.g. substantial prose extracts), you will be responsible for securing the necessary permissions.

To submit your proposal, please email:

We will notify authors of acceptance by 1 December 2020 and will require the final draft of essays to be submitted by 1 September 2021. More details are here.

Animal Figurations in Modernist Literature and Culture

Edited by Alex Goody and Saskia McCracken
Deadline for Abstracts 14 September 2020

This edited volume aims to bring together scholarship from across literature and culture to engage with the animal turn in modernist studies. We welcome work by early career researchers and are particularly interested in chapters which address critical race studies, indigeneity, colonialism, modernisms of the global south and marginalised modernists.

If modernism heralded a moment of socio-political, cultural and aesthetic transformation, it also instigated a refashioning of how we think about, encounter and live with animals. Beasts abound in modernism. Virginia Woolf’s spaniel, Zora Neale Hurston’s dog and mule, Langston Hughes and Leonora Carrington’s cats, James Joyce’s earwig, D.H. Lawrence’s snake, Samuel Beckett’s lobster, Mulk Raj Anand’s cows, and Djuna Barnes’s lioness all present prominent examples of where animals and animality are at the forefront of modernist innovation. At stake in such beastly figurations are not just matters of species relations but of the animal in excess of its capture by culture, language and representation. The attendant questions of human animality, non-human agency and the limits of humanism also open onto broader ideas of social relations, culture, race, sex, gender, capitalism and religion. Modernism’s interest in the figure of the animal speaks to the immense changes in animal life in the early twentieth century, a period where the reverberations of Darwinian theory were being felt in the new life sciences, as well as emergent social theories that employed discourses of species, and developing technologies, media and markets that radically altered everyday human-animal relations. It was also a period in which new theories of human responsibilities towards animals were also being articulated with Donald Watson coining the idea of veganism in 1944.

The recent ‘animal turn’ in the humanities invites new ways of thinking about the beasts that we find in modernist culture. Moreover, animal studies arrives at a point at which modernist studies is already in the process of redefining what modernism means. Turning to modernism’s beasts not only promises fresh ways of understanding its multispecies foundations, but also signals how modernist studies might intervene in contemporary debates around animal life. Building on the foundational work on animals and modernism by Carrie Rohman, Margot Norris, Kari Weil, Derek Ryan and others, the editors invite chapters on animals and all aspects of modernist culture.   Beastly Modernisms focuses on the ‘beastly’ understood as both/and the non-human other of modernity; the contiguous animality of contemporary human existence; the persistence of more than human life; the unknowable animal that is apprehended within the experiments of modernism. The beastly modernisms we seek to explore in this volume are, thus, those “material semiotic knots’ (Donna Haraway 2007) that modernists generated in attempts to apprehended the non-human animal world. We propose, following Rosi Braidotti, that animal figurations be conceived as ‘living maps’ that acknowledge ‘concretely situated historical positions’ (Braidotti 2011). Indeed, ‘animal signifiers [are] deeply bound up with human cultural, political, and social meaning’ (Mel Y. Chen 2012), and in this volume we are endeavouring to respond to Maneesha Deckha’s call for ‘intersectional analyses of animal issues’ (2012). We are particularly concerned to support the work of contingent and early career researchers and in decentring the canons and geographies of modernism. We thus seek new research contributions that interrogate the imaginative animal interventions of modernism, conceived in broad aesthetic, temporal and geographical terms.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Animal Figurations, Signifiers
  • Animals in Critical Race Studies
  • Indigeneity & the Animal
  • Animals &/in Empire/colonialism
  • Animals in the Global South Avant-garde
  • Pacific Beastly Modernisms
  • Blue/Marine Modernism
  • The Creaturely and Beastliness
  • Animal Rights, Ethics, Activism
  • Political Animals
  • Anti/Vivisection Movements
  • Bestial Ontologies and Materialities 
  • Animal Biography
  • SF & Utopias
  • Queer Animals and Sexuality 
  • Anthropocentrism and Anthropomorphism
  • Human Animality and Social Darwinism 
  • Subject and Subjectivity
  • Surrealism
  • Animal Commodification and Capitalism
  • Class, Hierarchy, Status
  • Sex and Gender
  • Religion, Myth and Animism
  • Wildlife and Hunting
  • Animal Trauma, Death, Violence, Warfare
  • Biology, Ethology, Ecology and the Natural Sciences
  • Animal Performance, Circuses, Zoos 
  • Disability and Animals
  • Pets, Companion Species and Domestication
  • Extinction, Ecocriticism, the Anthropocene  
  • Meat Production, Livestock, Agriculture, Working Animals
  • Vegetarianism, Veganism, Eating Animals
  • Modernist Animal Philosophy
  • Posthumanism and Transhumanism
  • Animal Life, Species, Speciesism
  • Form, Medium, Methodology, Narratology 
  • Early and Late Modernist Animals 

By addressing these questions, the book as a whole aims to offer a definitive collection of contemporary scholarship on animals in modernist literature and culture, to showcase the vibrant field of modernist animal studies and illustrate the different methodological/theoretical concerns that are at stake in the study of beastly modernisms.

We invite chapters that address these issues. Submissions are open to all researchers at every level of study. We welcome co-authored work. Please send 500-word proposals for chapters, and any questions, to by 14 September 2020. The deadline for full chapters, 6,000-7,000 words in length (including notes and works cited), will be 30 June 2021. We look forward to reading your proposals.

An irreverent historical look at lockdowns, plagues and pandemics. Killer germs, superbugs and pestilential plagues have long fascinated writers and musicians. Join a cast of actors, scientists and literary researchers to take a long view on the crisis of the moment. From Angels in America to Mary Shelley, from obscure Victorian Medical Parlour Songs to Fascinating Aida’s Herpes Tango, The Contagion Cabaret is riddled with infectious extracts from plays, poems, journalism and music, past and present.

A collaboration between Chipping Norton Theatre, and the Diseases of Modern Life team (University of Oxford), led by Professor Sally Shuttleworth. Suitable for ages 14+. View here.

In particular, please note the competition for school pupils which closes on July 6.

Our funding page is fully updated with details of the new rounds of two funding schemes. The Small Grants Scheme awards up to £400 for all kinds of activity which promotes the study of literature and science. The Postgraduate/ECR Conference Fund covers expenses of around £200 to help junior colleagues with the expenses of presenting research. The deadline for applications to both schemes has been extended to 1st September 2020, and more details can be found here.

The materials from our 2020 conference, which was moved online after the pandemic forced us to cancel the Sheffield event, have now been taken down. This was always the plan: the exec wanted members to be able to access materials at their own pace, but we also wanted to preserve some of the ephemerality of an in-person meeting. Contributors, too, wanted to feel confident sharing work in progress.

During the two weeks the conference was online, there were 894 visits to the site, peaking on April 17th - the day we hosted our online AGM and live keynote from Martin Willis. Video presentations (not including Martin's) were viewed a total of 319 times during this period. These numbers give only a vague sense of how many people were actually using the site, but at the very least they suggest that a healthy number of the c.110 prospective delegates to Sheffield visited at least fleetingly - and that some of the wider membership, who were not planning to travel to Sheffield, have also taken advantage. We hope that the papers, discussions, and live events - poor substitutes for the real event - were nonetheless useful and stimulating.

Our thanks are due to the thirty-six delegates who prepared and sent in presentations against a background of global turmoil; to Martin Willis for delivering a graceful keynote under pressure; to the University of Liverpool for hosting our Teams discussions; and, of course, to the organising team at Sheffield, led by Katherine Ebury and Helena Ifill. The programme of the conference-which-never-was is here, and the programme of our online offerings can be read here.

Delegates who did not send presentations in - please hold on to your abstracts! The BSLS is planning future ways of giving you a platform for your research, possibly this winter. The BSLS remains committed to its annual meeting, and the 2021 gathering at Edinburgh Napier is currently being planned. But we have also been delighted by the uptake of the digital conference, and are thinking about ways for our future events to incorporate more online elements.

Over the next few months, I will be assembling ideas about what the society could offer to members via its site and its vimeo channel, thinking both about enhancing our research events and adding separate content. Anyone who wants to contribute to this thought process is encouraged to contact me!

Will Tattersdill
Communications Secretary

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