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The BSLS is delighted to announce the winner of its Book Prize for 2020: Biofictions: Race, Genetics and the Contemporary Novel (Bloomsbury Academic) by Josie Gill.

Josie Gill’s study of race and genetics in late twentieth and early twenty-first century fiction is critically engaged with science and its contexts, lucidly written, and politically urgent. Covering novels by, among others, Zadie Smith, Kazuo Ishiguro, Octavia Butler, and Colson Whitehead, it argues that the idea of race in genetic science is a biofiction, ‘an idea constituted through the complex entanglement of scientific and fictive forms.’ It takes in the sciences relevant to ancestry, human genomic diversity, epigenetics, and examines their relations to the changing social contexts for concepts of ‘race’ and anti-racist politics. In doing so, it illuminates how concepts of ‘race’ remain latent even when contemporary genetic science seems to have undermined the concept. Wearing its scholarship lightly, this outstanding study welcomes both the specialist in contemporary literature, the general reader, and, we hope, readers from the sciences.

Biofictions is available on open access funded by Knowledge Unlatched.


The British Society for Literature and Science is pleased to announce the shortlist for the 2020 book prize. The five shortlisted books are (alphabetically by author's surname):

Will Abberley, Mimicry and Display in Victorian Literary Culture: Nature, Science and the Nineteenth-Century Imagination (CUP)

Andrea Charise. The Aesthetics of Senescence: Aging, Population, and the Nineteenth-Century British Novel (SUNY Press)

Josie Gill, Biofictions: Race, Genetics and the Contemporary Novel (Bloomsbury Academic)

Tom Nurmi, Magnificent Decay: Melville and Ecology (University of Virginia Press)

Sara Wasson, Transplantation Gothic: Tissue transfer in literature, film, and medicine (Manchester University Press)

The prize of £150 will be awarded to the best book published in 2020 in the field of literature and science. The winner will be announced at this year's online conference.


Nominations are now being accepted for the BSLS Book Prize 2020. Inaugurated in 2007, the annual British Society for Literature and Science book prize is awarded for the best book in the field of literature and science published that year. Any book is eligible, but can only be considered if it is nominated either by a member of BSLS or by its publisher. Publishers are very welcome to nominate their own books, and members may nominate their own titles. Please note that individual memberships must be current and the publication in question must be dated 2020 to be eligible. Members of the BSLS committee are not eligible for the Prize. A panel of BSLS executive committee members and scholars will read all submissions, with the winner announced at our 2021 online conference. Please send all nominations to Michael Whitworth on by 31 December 2020.

For a list of past winners and shortlisted titles, see here.


The winner of the BSLS Book Prize for 2019 was announced yesterday at the Society's online conference: it is Gerard Passannante's Catastrophizing: Materialism and the Making of Disaster (University of Chicago Press)

Gerard Passannante’s timely study brings together literature, visual art, and the history of science to provide rich insights into catastrophic thinking and the history of materialist thought. His accounts of analogy and of the juxtaposition of incompatible scales will be stimulating to readers working across a wide range of periods. His key idea is that the image of disaster renders the imperceptible perceptible. The book takes in Lucretian materialism, Leonardo da Vinci, John Donne, the idea of interpretation ‘anything out of anything’ (quidlibet ex quolibet), Shakespeare, Robert Hooke and microscopes, the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, and – in a suggestive Afterword – our current climate crisis. It has foundations of precise historical scholarship, but is informed by a wider range of historical knowledge, such that Sergei Eisenstein can inform a discussion of Leonardo da Vinci, or Samuel Beckett provides the opening to a chapter on Shakespeare.

Further details of the book prize, and of past winners and shortlisted titles, are given here.

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The British Society for Literature and Science is very pleased to announce the shortlist for its annual book prize.  Nominations were sought from publishers and members of the BSLS; books published by current members of the BSLS executive committee are not eligible. Alphabetically by author, the four books are:

The winner will be announced at the online conference on Friday 17 April 2020, after Martin Willis's keynote lecture.

A list of past winners and shortlisted books is to be found here.


Physicist and poet Iggy McGovern, previously mentioned on the Arts Blog for his work on William Rowan Hamilton, is interviewed by poet Nessa O'Mahony for The Attic Sessions.

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Texts and contexts: the cultural legacies of Ada Lovelace

An interdisciplinary workshop

Tuesday 8 December, 10am-6pm (arrivals from 9.30am)

Rooms L4 and L5, Mathematics Institute, University of Oxford

Attendance is free, registration required


In 2015 the University of Oxford is hosting a number of events to mark 200 years since the birth of mathematician and computer pioneer, Ada Lovelace (1815-1852). As part of these celebrations, this interdisciplinary one-day workshop will bring together postgraduates and early career researchers in literature, history, maths and computing, and anyone with interests in Lovelace, in order to discuss the cultural influence of her work from the nineteenth century to the present day.


We look forward to hearing a wide range of papers on subjects including Lovelace and LEGO, Lovelace’s poetic imagination, and the role that Lovelace can play in teaching computing to primary school children. Our keynote address, ‘Literature, science and medicine in the early nineteenth century’, will be delivered by Professor Sharon Ruston (Lancaster University). Professor Ruston will also take part in an expert panel, alongside biographer Professor Richard Holmes (Falling Upwards; The Age of Wonder), graphic novelist Sydney Padua (The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage), and novelist and critic Miranda Seymour (In My Father’s House).


Attendance at the workshop is completely free, although you must register in advance. Visit and follow the registration link. Registration closes on Sunday 29 November.


As well as the workshop, a two-day symposium “Ada Lovelace: celebrating 200 years of a computer visionary” will take place on Wednesday 9 and Thursday 10 December, also at the Maths Institute. Thanks to the generosity of the symposium sponsors, there are a number of funded student places available for the symposium. Anyone wishing to apply for one of these places should contact


For more information on the workshop, a full timetable and list of abstracts, visit, and for the main symposium go to Email us at

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