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VPFA Study Day, Friday 19 April 2024, Manchester Metropolitan University (and with hybrid options for audience members)

From Newgate novels and silver-fork fiction at the start of the period to science fiction and a gothic resurgence at the end of the century, nineteenth-century periodical fiction presented a wide variety of ways through which to conceptualise, depict, and understand the world. Across this diversity of subjects and epistemological stances, the nature of the periodical format adds further complications through its serialisations, circulations and re-circulations, and a maze of intertextual connections. While scholars have long been attentive to these issues, the development of digital methods have created new possibilities for analysis and the scale of the periodical press - the main textual production of the world’s first industrialised knowledge economy – presents ongoing complexities as new texts and information broaden our understanding of the workings of genres, media, writers, editors, readers. This study day brings together scholars working on periodicals and popular fiction to ask fundamental questions about how periodicals and their fictions constructed, shaped, disseminated, complicated, and otherwise were involved with “knowledge”.

Contributors might consider knowledge as broadly or as narrowly as they wish, focussing on anything from a single page or short story to entire publications, genres, movements, and bodies of work. Papers are invited on any topic that engages with “knowledge” (however construed) within any form of Victorian periodical, but especially as it relates to popular fiction. Approaches might include (but are not limited to):

  • Gendered knowledge and class-based knowledge – the social parameters of writing, imagined audiences versus the reality
  • Empire, race, and diversity – colonial and imperial connections, nationalisms and identity, postcolonial reading and decolonising nineteenth-century collections
  • Genre issues – assumptions, world view, tone, audience, contexts…
  • Economies of knowledge – commodities, advertising, packaging, pricing, production
  • Ways of reading – close/distant, part-issue/volume, serial/anthology, etc.
  • Practical knowledge, useful knowledge, and their implied opposites (impractical/useless knowledge)
  • How texts migrate and evolve across media - intertextual connections, reprinting and re-mediating information, international republications, translations, adaptations…
  • Use of source material, authority, authenticity, and validity; what constitutes plagiarism in the nineteenth century; acknowledgement and canonicity
  • Questions of media and form – serialisations and books, illustrated texts, periodicals read aloud, fiction and poetry/music/non-fiction/photography/sewing patterns/stock market data…
  • Implicit knowledge – unstated forms of knowledge conveyed through character, plot, tone…
  • Contested knowledge – formations and representations of debate, dissent, consensus and “fact” (real or otherwise)
  • Scales and taxonomies of knowledge – anecdote, detail, thick description versus overview, statistics, and panorama
  • Moral and religious instruction versus scandal, muck, and entertainment
  • Past, present, future knowledges – the historical and the contemporary, or the contemporary as historical (and vice versa)

The VPFA invites proposals for 15-20 minute papers, which should be sent in the body of an email to by Friday 15th March 2024. Other forms of presentation will be considered. Abstracts should be maximum 250 words and accompanied by a short biographical note. Presentations will be delivered in-person, but audience members may attend via an online option.

A reminder that abstracts for next year's conference are due on 1 December, 2023.

The conference will bring together three societies focused on literature and science: BSLS will be joined by the European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts (SLSAeu), and the Commission on Science and Literature (CoSciLit).

Plenaries will be given by Brian Hurwitz, Emeritus Professor of Medicine and the Arts at King’s College London; Isabel Jaen Portillo, Professor of Spanish at Portland State University; Rhona Trauvitch, Director of the Science & Fiction Lab at Florida International University; and the Directors of the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research, the Birmingham Institute for Sustainability and Climate Action and the Institute for STEMM in Culture and Society at the University of Birmingham.

Please send proposals to by 18:00 (UK time) on Friday 1 December 2023. Proposals should be up to 250 words for individual papers or up to 750 words for a panel. Please include a biography of up to 50 words per speaker and specify whether you hope to attend the conference in person or online. Proposals will be evaluated by a panel drawn from all three societies.

In 1932, on the stage of Boston’s Colonial Theatre, a human-sized bacterium complained to the audience that its human host had infected it with measles. Through this very human voice, George Bernard Shaw’s new play Too True to be Good gave a comical take on biology which reversed the perspective from the human to the microbial. Its appearance was brief, but Shaw’s talking microbe anticipated the emergence and foregrounding of microscopic actors in contemporary performance, and many of the questions raised by their appearance. Are our relations to other scales inevitably mimetic? Can we see microscopic agency without anthropomorphizing it, or the microscopic scale without colonizing it? How does biology trouble the expected roles of humans and nonhumans? And how are the categories of actor, actant or plot renewed and transformed by living microscopic processes?

Following a first symposium on literature and the microscopic organised in November 2023, this symposium will ask how 20th and 21st-century performance has engaged with invisible microscopic life. We define performance as a broad spectrum of artistic work that includes living exhibits and installations, as well as the staging of dramatic or post-dramatic work. Building on recent conceptualizations of microperformativity (Hauser & Strecker, 2020), this symposium will focus specifically on artworks that involve forms of microscopic life, such as microbes and microbiomes, or living microscopic processes, such as DNA transcription, as actors and collaborators. We ask how these actors affect agency, which shifts away from the human actor towards multi-species and multi-scalar collectives; temporality, which extends over new timescales and requires new forms of stage management and curatorial work; and relationality, where artworks involving microscopic living entities raise new ethical and biopolitical issues.

We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers in English or French, and encourage speakers to explore the following topics:

- key moments and turning-points in the performance of microscopic life over the 20th and 21st centuries

- technological and non-technological engagements with microscopic life

- the epistemic dimensions of performance aesthetics

- the role of performance in changing scopic paradigms, or moving beyond scopic paradigms towards other sensory modes of knowledge

- the ethical and political dimensions of performance involving microscopic life

- the conceptual shifts provoked by microscopic life, around notions such as community, agency, self, individual or environment

- how microscopic life affects categories such as actor, agent, plot, character, spectator, creator, collaborator, author

- the reception of performance involving microscopic life, and evolving relations to audiences

- relations between popular science and performance

- transformations of critical terminology and theoretical frameworks in reaction to microscopic life

Proposals should be sent in Word or PDF documents by the 5th of November 2023 to the organisers:,

Answers will be sent out by the end of November. The symposium will take place at the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris on 15/03/2024, with the support of the FMSH Biohumanities programme (, the Institut Universitaire de France, and the BioCriticism project (

University of Birmingham, 10-12 April 2024

For 2024, the annual conferences of the British Society for Literature and Science (BSLS) and the European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts (SLSAeu), together with the biennial conference of the Commission on Science and Literature (CoSciLit), will be combined into a single meeting. This will be the first time that these three societies have joined together to share research at the many intersections of literature and science. The conference will be held at the University of Birmingham, UK, over 10-12 April 2024. Confirmed plenary speakers include Brian Hurwitz, Emeritus Professor of Medicine and the Arts at King’s College London; Isabel Jaen Portillo, Professor of Spanish at Portland State University; and the Directors of the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research, the Birmingham Institute for Sustainability and Climate Action and the Institute for STEMM in Culture and Society at the University of Birmingham.

In addition to the main programme, there will be tours available of the Lapworth Museum of Geology, the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Winterbourne House and Garden and the National Buried Infrastructure Facility, with an additional optional visit to the BIFoR FACE forest research facility and the Ruskin Land forest site on 13 April. The conference will be semi-hybrid, with differential pricing for attendance in person and online and for waged and unwaged participants. Papers may be presented in person or online, and online delegates will be able to watch the plenary sessions live and recordings of papers from other panels. There will also be a follow-up session online (date to be confirmed) for all delegates, including a panel for postgraduate students specifically. For more details of the conference as planning develops, please see the conference website. For other enquiries about the conference, please email the conference organiser, Prof John Holmes (, directly.

We would like to hear about as wide a range of research on literature and science as possible, so there will be no set theme for this conference. We welcome proposals for papers of 20 minutes and for panels of 90 minutes including three or more speakers and time for questions from the audience.  Individual papers may be delivered in person or online, and panels may be in person, online or combine presentations in both formats. We especially welcome panels and presentations reporting on collaborations between literature scholars or writers and natural scientists; showcasing the work of research institutes and networks; or taking stock of the state of the field in specific regions or countries. We encourage participation by scientists and creative writers as well as scholars, and we are happy to consider papers on creative writing, teaching practice and public engagement as well as research. While papers should be presented in English, we are keen to hear about literary and scientific texts and encounters in any language, from any period and from anywhere in the world.

Please send proposals to by 18:00 (UK time) on Friday 1 December 2023. Proposals should be up to 250 words for individual papers or up to 750 words for a panel. Please include a biography of up to 50 words per speaker and specify whether you hope to attend the conference in person or online. Proposals will be evaluated by a panel drawn from all three societies.

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.

John Holmes
Professor of Victorian Literature and Culture, University of Birmingham, UK
President, Commission on Science and Literature

Jenni Halpin
Professor of English, Savannah State University, Georgia, USA
Chair, British Society for Literature and Science

Aura Heydenreich
Chair of Modern German Literature, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany
President, European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts

When Ronald Ross discovered the protozoan responsible for malaria in 1897, he wrote a poem addressing “million-murdering Death” whose “cunning seeds” he had found. Ross’s poem remains famous, but how has his hope that art and science would walk “hand in hand” fared in the following centuries? Over the 20th century, microscopy was revolutionised by UV, phase contrast, and electron technology. The circulation of microscopic images increased exponentially with the arrival of television, internet and digital photography. While visualisations of atomic physics were influential for modernist writers, genetic engineering and microbial agency have become key ingredients of 21st-century crime fiction and science fiction, as well as inspirations for ecopoetry, molecular poetics and experiments in living poetry. This symposium aims to identify the microscopic imaginaries that appeared over this period, and the turning points that structured literature’s engagement with microscopy. We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers in English, on any written literary genre, particularly around the following topics:

- the epistemic dimensions of literary form

- the aesthetics of scale

- the role of literature in changing scopic regimes

- ethical and political dimensions of microscopic imaginaries

- conceptual shifts provoked by microscopic perspectives, around notions such as community, agency, subject, or environment

- relations between microscopic imaginaries and movements such as modernism, naturalism or new materialism

- authorial postures and reader expectations created by microscopic perspectives

- relations between scientific imagination, popular science imagination and literary imagination

 - how scientific and literary discourses have shaped each other over this period 

Proposals should be sent in Word or PDF documents by the 31st of May 2023 to the organisers:,, and

Answers will be sent out by the 9th of June. The symposium will be held at the Sorbonne Nouvelle, Maison de la Recherche, 4 rue des Irlandais, in Paris.

A second symposium will be organized in 2024 on microscopic imaginaries in theatre and performance: a separate call for papers will be issued for that event.


Adaptation is a term that bridges the divide between literature and evolution. Texts are adapted to speak to new circumstances as time advances and younger writers, directors, actors, artists, and audiences seek connections to a mutable culture. Likewise, organisms adapt over generations to better suit their circumstance.

Adaptation also presupposes a relationship to an original, a source. In organisms, unchecked replication can lead to distorted text, broken genetic code. In the age of infinite digital reproduction, of Tiktoks, NFTs,  AI-generated images or novels and so on, the concept of adaptation can generate productive conversations on the current role and nature of art. 

Have we irrevocably moved away from the notion of art as belonging to a particular time and space, having a unique context, what Benjamin called “aura”? Lawrence Venuti, who configures adaptation as translation, writes that “the interpretive force of a translation issues from the fact that the source text is not only decontextualized, but recontextualized” (Venuti 93). In nature as well as art, both the monstrous and the exquisite are born from these textual recontextualizations. 

This conference aims to approach adaptation in all its guises: The literary, the evolutionary, the personal. We seek stories of adaptation, criticism that approaches textual or theatrical adaptation, and presentations that explore the juncture between literary and evolutionary space.

Performance Studies, Literature and Science, Literary Adaptation, Genre-bending, Biosemiotics, Ecocriticism, Adaptation and Translation

Keynotes: Stephen O’Neill and John Holmes

Please send Abstracts of 250 words plus a bio in the body of an email by February 28th to and

Epistemic Transformations in Literature, Science and the Arts

Extended Deadline for Abstract Submissions

Conference of SLSAeu

European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts and ELINAS Research Center for Literature and Natural Science

May 18 – 21, 2023

Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg

The SLSAeu Conference 2023 is centered on modes of exchange between discourses and practices of knowledge production, re-presentation and simulation which lead to epistemic transformations in science, literature and arts.

Metaphors, models and simulations are epistemic tools for physics, astronomy, climatology, earth system sciences, chemistry, biology, life sciences, medicine and robotics. Model-based reasoning is employed in social sciences, cognitive sciences, computer sciences, archaeology and architecture. While the usual categories for doing scientific research are experiments, theories and their falsifications, which are mainly based on technical equipment and mathematical formalism, recent approaches investigate how models and simulations are embedded in cultural processes, and ask how they are formed or epistemically transformed as parts of material cultures. Moreover, they ask how metaphors, models and simulations receive a certain epistemic agency and autonomy due to their artefactual (Knuutilla), mediation (Morgan/Morrison) and exemplification functions (Goodman/Elgin). Philosophy of science goes so far as to ask about the epistemic functions of fiction in the process of scientific modelling and simulation, and draws parallels between scientific models and fictive characters, objects, or places of literary fiction (Frigg, Nguyen).

The conference is meant to be a platform for this interdisciplinary exchange on epistemic cultures of modelling (Gelfert): How can we explore epistemic relations between models, fiction and simulations? How can we think of literary practices and modelling strategies as specific modes of epistemic inquiry? How can we gain new knowledge through the epistemic use of imagination (Badura/Kind) in literature, the arts and science? What is the epistemic function of aesthetics in scientific modelling practices? What interpretational problems arise due to crossdisciplinary approaches and different textual, diagrammatical, algorithmical and encoding practices?

We invite participants to outline the historical, cultural, and rhetorical formation and transformation of model-based knowledge (Magnani/Bertolotti) at the intersections between science, literature and the arts. We hope for interesting encounters between different communities: the philosophy of science investigates the relationships between models, simulations and theories of fiction as make- believe (Walton, Toon) as well as the artefactual and non-representational dimensions of models (Knuuttila). Cultural semiotics conceptualizes literature and the arts as secondary modelling systems (Lotman), the philosophy of mind explores epistemic uses of imagination (Amy Kind), the philosophy of art investigates ‚exemplification‘ as an epistemic practice in art and science (Goodman, Elgin). Narratology investigates narrative factuality and experientiality (Fludernik, Ryan) and history of science examines narrative strategies of scientific writing (Brandt,  Schickore). But the question posed by Jay Labinger still remains: Where are the scientists in literature and science studies?

The conference seeks to establish and facilitate a dialogue between literary and cultural studies and various interdisciplinary science communities, history of science, philosophy of science, and science and technology studies. We invite papers as well as panels dealing with the epistemological functions of metaphors, models and simulations in literature, the arts, sciences, virtual realities, digital humanities, informatics, brain and cognitive sciences, climate sciences, earth system sciences, life sciences, astronomy, astrophyics. Questions could arise on the epistemic functions of models as mediators between arts and sciences, on the world building functions of models and literary texts, on the artefactual nature of models and simulations, on the epistemic function of aesthetics in modelling and simulation practices, on literary, artistic and scientific imagination in the process of modelling (Thorne), on the epistemic tools of representation – pictorial, mathematical, linguistic, algorithmic, 3-D —  on non-representational accounts of modelling, on the process of epistemic transformation from metaphors to models and simulations, and on the cultural materiality of models and simulations.


Please send 400-word abstracts by the 20th of February 2023 to Aura Heydenreich ( Please include “SLSAeu23” in the email subject line and a brief bio/bibliography, as well as an e-mail address and a postal address. Formats include paper presentations (20-25 minutes), interdisciplinary panels (including participants from three disciplins and a moderator), art events (multimedia, AV format). SLSAeu and ELINAS are committed to supporting young talents to present their work. We invite MA and PhD students to submit their paper. Proposals for interdisciplinary roundtables spanning science/technology, literature, humanities or social sciences, and the arts are especially welcome.

Venue of the Conference

The main venue of the Conference will be the „Kollegienhaus“ and the „Orangerie“ of the Friedrich-Alexander-University (Universitätsstraße 15, 91054 Erlangen) which are located directly at the Erlangen Schlossgarten. The main train station and the University Library are just a stone’s throw away.


Room contingents in different hotels will be pre-reserved for conference participants. Please make your reservation as soon as possible as available rooms are limited.

For further information visit:

Key Dates:

Abstracts due:                                             20 February 2023

Decisions + Program:                                   1 March 2023

Registration:                                                 1 April 2023

Conference:                                                  18-21 May 2023


PD Dr. Aura Heydenreich

German and Comparative Literature

Research Fellow, ELINAS

Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

President of the European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts

Prof. Dr. Klaus Mecke

Institute of Theoretical Physics



The Literary Twilight Zone: Nonfictional Fiction, 1820–1920

The University of Birmingham, Wednesday 28 June 2023

"The mystical student of psychology, who knows the inadequacy of a bare statement of facts for the presentation of psychic incidents, will hardly need an apology for the form in which the narratives are cast."
Mohini Chatterji and Laura Holloway, Man: Fragments of Forgotten History (1885)

Keynote: Dr Tatiana Kontou Senior Lecturer in Nineteenth Century Literature, Oxford Brookes University

Fiction is not always entirely fictional. Indeed, many of the long nineteenth century’s most famous writers – including Edgar Allan Poe, Marie Corelli, and Émile Zola – wilfully blurred the boundary with nonfiction. Scientific and paranormal romances provided unrepentantly literary spaces to contribute to modern thought, while other authors opted for experimental naturalism, impeccably researched historical novels, hoaxes, thought experiments, and truth claims disguised as fiction.

Fascinating scholarship has analysed twentieth-century writings that sit uneasily on the fact-fiction binary, from Charles Fort’s The Book of the Damned (1919) to the space opera origins of Scientology. This work has rarely been linked in detail to its nineteenth-century origins, despite burgeoning research on occult writers like Edward Bulwer Lytton, whose novels were interpreted by some readers as partially true. Scholars of nineteenth-century literature still have much to bring to a conversation which has been flourishing in research on science fiction, esotericism, and popular culture. During this period modern disciplines and literary genres were gestating, as were (fragile) boundaries between the scholarly and the popular, the aesthetic and the scientific, the scientific and the pseudoscientific. What advantages did fiction hold for authors who chose it over nonfiction journalism or scholarly articles? And how did their readers interpret works – from the conventional to the bizarre and avant-garde – that combined Wissenschaft and fantasy?

This one-day academic workshop, hosted by the Nineteenth-Century Centre, brings together scholars interested in fiction’s relationships with the creation of knowledge. Global subject matter is welcomed, and potential topics include:

  • Scientific romance
  • Paranormal narratives
  • Marginalised authors
  • Footnotes and fiction
  • Hoaxes and fraud
  • Generic fluidity
  • Creative nonfiction
  • Pseudoarchaeology
  • Imaginary portraits
  • Semifiction
  • The experimental novel
  • Roman à thèse

Papers can be 20 minutes in length, but we also welcome proposals for alternate formats. The deadline for abstracts of up to 250 words and bios of 150 words is 17 March 2023. Send enquiries to Travel bursaries available on request.

This event is hosted by the Nineteenth-Century Centre at the University of Birmingham, which provides a collaborative network for scholars working across traditional disciplinary, national, and temporal boundaries. They host regular events of interest to members and mobilise the rich resources of the local area to support both research and teaching.

This event is funded by grants from the Leverhulme Trust and the British Society for Literature and Science.

Disruptive Imaginations 

Joint Annual Conference of SFRA and GfF

TU Dresden, Germany, August 15-19, 2023

The societies invite papers on all forms and genres of science fiction and the fantastic in relation to the paradigm of disruption, including but not limited to literature, music, film, games, design, and art. Presentations may be held either in English or German. They strive for a diversity of voices and perspectives from any and all disciplines and career stages. While papers on any subject in SFF are welcome, they especially encourage topics that resonate with the overall conference theme and that engage disruptive imaginations along axes that include but are not limited to:


  • SFF imagination under conditions of disruption, e.g., energy crisis; toxicity; climate disruption; war; colonialism; dis/ability and ableism; trauma; white supremacy
  • SFF imagination against disruption, e.g., resilience; worldmaking; utopia; decolonization and restitution; cultural healing; kinship; critical and co-futurisms (African and Afro-futurisms, Indigenous Futurisms, Queer and Trans Futurisms, Crip Futurisms, LatinX Futurisms,…)
  • SFF imagination in need of disruption, e.g., SFF and systems of oppression; the energy unsconious of SFF; transhumanism and eugenics; SFF tropes/histories/conventions of white supremacy, colonialism, heteropatriarchy, and technological solutionism
  • SFF imagination as a force of disruption, e.g., SFF in/as activism; emancipatory forms of SFF publishing (e.g., Destroy! Series); the cultural/bodily/social/political/aesthetic/ecological impact of SFF; SFF as medium of political subversion and agitation; alt-right utilization of SFF rhetoric
  • SFF imagination of disruption, e.g., ruptures of space and time; geoengineering; gene editing; hacking; revolution; border crossings, unsettling of hierarchies, chimeras and hybrids, creative technologies and alternative communication media


Proposal for individual presentations, panels, or non-traditional formats (roundtable, artistic research, participatory formats, etc.) are welcome, in English or German. For individual presentation, we ask for an abstract of 300 words and a short bio (150 words). For preformed panels we require a proposal (single file) that includes a 300 word summary of the panel topic, abstracts of 200 words for each contribution, and bio notes (150 words) for all participants. Please send all submissions to by March 1, 2023. Options for limited hybrid participation will be available. More information will be supplied soon on our conference website


Both organizations give out a limited number of travel grants to help students, PhD candidates and non-tenured participants with their expenses: SFRA members are eligible to apply for travel grants of up to 500$; the GfF offers four travel grants of 250€ each, membership not required. Please indicate your interest upon submitting your abstract.



The 2023 conference for the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, UK and Ireland (ASLE-UKI) will be hosted by the Literature and Science Hub at the University of Liverpool, 29 August to 1 September. ASLE-UKI welcomes participation from scholars, readers, and creative practitioners interested in the relationships between literatures, environments and cultures – past, present, or future – from anywhere in the world.

The theme of the 2023 conference is “Transitions“. Keynote speakers include: Brycchan Carey, Nandini Das, Caroline Edwards, Graeme MacDonald, Chris Pak, and Craig Santos Perez. 

n addition to relatively traditional academic formats we wish to encourage experimental modes of presentation including creative proposals. Possible formats include:

  • individual scholarly or creative-critical papers of 20 minutes
  • preformed panels comprising three or four papers/dialogues/conversations/performances
  • round table discussion panels with three to five participants

Please submit proposals via the following links. Include contact details, brief bios, and an abstract of up to 300 words by 1st June 2023.

Visit the conference website for further details.

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