Each year the BSLS supports a one-day symposium on any theme related to the research interests of the BSLS.

The 2022 Winter Symposium will be on the theme of 'Imagining Queer Ecologies'. As an emerging concept in queer theory and the environmental humanities that has been adopted in scholarship across the sciences, social sciences, and arts and humanities to address questions of community, biodiversity, organicism, and posthumanism, queer ecology represents a potent framework for addressing the intersectionality of not only what is natural, but also what is queer.

How might ‘queer ecologies’ invite us to think about literature and science, medicine, and technology as a discipline? Where might we position queer ecology within the larger constellation of literature and science studies?

‘Imagining Queer Ecologies’ is a one-day online symposium hosted by the British Society for Literature and Science and the University of Oxford. The symposium is free, open to all, and encouraging of participation from postgraduate researchers (PGRs) and early-career researchers (ECRs).

Programme and tickets available via our Eventbrite page.

Past Symposia

2022 Symposium - The Subterranean Anthropocene

“Blue marble” images of earth are often synonymous with environmental campaigns and anthropocentric thinking. But by always thinking of earth from above, have we forgotten earth from below? By excavating the subterranean, we can unearth long-held ideologies of knowledge, value, memory, and fear.

The subterranean in fiction, from Dante’s Inferno, to Alice’s descent into Wonderland, to Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth, represents underground space in myriad ways - as the stratification of the mind, as encountering the repressed, as the invisible labour of the working classes. Literary analysis, too, engages with a subterranean vocabulary of “mining” meaning, of processes of “discovering”, “uncovering”, and “bringing to light”. This symposium uncovered the subterranean anxieties present in the intersection of literature and science and excavated narratives of extraction, depths, and delving.

2021 Symposium - Decolonising Literature and Science

Recent years have seen an increase in efforts to decolonise the curriculum and the academy following the success of BAME-student-led campaigns such as “Rhodes Must Fall” (2016) and “Why is My Curriculum White?” (2015). Within the field of literature and science, there have been growing calls to confront the cultural and “epistemological inheritance of imperial science” (Choksey, “Peripheral Adaptation,” 2019) and to “examine the institutional structures and orders of knowledge that we reproduce in our work” (Gill, “Decolonising Literature and Science,” 2018).

Our proposed theme is motivated by the urgent need to evaluate how colonialism and imperialism have shaped the study of literature and science, past and present.

2020 Symposium - No Fixed Theme

This symposium, organised online jointly by the Universities of Sheffield and Aberdeen, collected papers and talks which were not delivered at the April 2020 conference as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

2019 Symposium - Extinctions and Rebellions

“We are at a time in history where everyone with any insight of the climate crisis that threatens our civilisation – and the entire biosphere – must speak out in clear language, no matter how uncomfortable and unprofitable that may be.”

In 2019, extinction is no longer the province of dinosaurs, the Dodo, or species far away in space and time. As Greta Thunberg argued in her Davos speech earlier this year, and as the ongoing socio-political efforts of the Extinction Rebellion suggest, extinction of the human (as well as the non-human) is an immediate concern and a very possible outcome of the climate crisis, unless significant action is taken by all. With this in mind, the ‘Extinctions and Rebellions’ symposium will think about the varied cultural discourses of extinction, past and present. It will not only be a platform to discuss current environmental and ecological concerns of the Anthropocene in the cultural imagination, but it also offers a space to think about how previous literary and scientific forms have imagined extinction as a process or finality, and how these conversations speak to and could offer a means to think about our current climate crisis. Moreover, we will explore ‘extinction’ and ‘rebellion’ as they pertain to questions of literary form and scientific theory and practice. This one-day event will allow postgraduates, early-career researchers, and academics to think about how the sciences and humanities can work together, inform, and facilitate the “clear language” needed to rebel against human and non-human extinction.

The questions presented by this symposium theme are relevant to all researchers, and we welcome delegates from varied career stages to allow for a diverse discussion. However, ‘Extinctions and Rebellions’ will also focus on how researchers in the earlier phases of their career can start (or continue) to think about the relevance and impacts of their work. The question of ‘Impact’ for REF2021 is one often discussed by established academics, but through a ‘Literature, Science, and Impact’ roundtable, this event will encourage postgraduates and ECRs to discuss the ways in which this field and their work can create changes to thinking and behaviours, and what this can mean for their future research too.

2018 Symposium - Environments of Literature and Science

The Environmental Humanities have gained momentum relatively recently, contributing to developing theories of the Anthropocene, responding to rapid changes in climate, and addressing our changing relationship with the world around us. They have also raised questions of how we define, shape, protect, and imagine our environments. This symposium provides a space to consider such questions, while also encompassing a wider sense of environment. How do we discuss the environments of literature – its production, dissemination, and reception? How do we understand the environments of science – its construction, its laboratories, its spaces of discourse? In what environments do we engage with Literature and Science as an interdisciplinary field, and in what environments do we teach, research, and encounter interactions between literature and science? These questions are bound up with, and have the potential to greatly impact, the environmental turn in humanities scholarship.

The research environment is under increasing scrutiny with discussions surrounding funding, the future of research, interdisciplinarity and collaboration, the mental health and wellbeing of researchers, and how the infrastructure and shape of research environments will look in the future. Doctoral and research awards focus on interdisciplinarity and collaboration, and the AHRC's four research themes (Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past, Digital Transformations in the Arts and Humanities, Science in Culture, and Translating Cultures) all provide scope to consider the history of environments, environments of research, and how we interpret our environments. This symposium provides an opportunity for researchers to reflect on the significance of environments to their research at all stages of their careers, with the aim of providing a supportive collaborative environment in and of itself, while simultaneously offering a forum for considering how literature and science scholarship might address the environmental challenges of the present and future.

2017 Symposium - Metaphor in Literature and Science

The aim of this symposium is to re-examine the role of metaphor in literature and science studies in the light of new developments and questions in the field. The study of metaphor and analogy could prove to have a crucial role in negotiating between historicist and readerly approaches to literature and science. Are metaphors necessarily rooted within a particular historical context, with literary texts employing the scientific metaphors of their time, or is it possible to draw productive analogies between literary and scientific texts from disparate historical periods? How useful is it, for instance, to read the forms and metaphors of modern neuroscience into older texts? We would also like to consider the role of metaphor in emerging fields within the study of literature and science, such as performance studies, medical humanities and animal studies (as well as the connected study of posthumanism). How do metaphors function in texts that extend the boundaries of the human?

While traditional papers are welcomed, contributors are also encouraged to experiment with non-traditional formats: speakers could present their work as a short film, or as a ‘biographical’ paper in which they reflect upon their own academic and theoretical trajectories.

For more information about the symposium please see the full CFP (linked above) and also

2016 Symposium The Politics of Literature and Science

This BSLS Winter Symposium will explore relationships between politics, science, medicine, literature and visual culture. We will take ‘politics’ in both its broadest sense—considering for example, the politics of the body, the politics of scientific institutions, and how scientific and political discourse has shaped imaginative forms of expression (and vice versa). We will also take ‘politics’ in a more specific sense, to address how literary writers and artists actively intervened in specific medico-political debates, or how their novels, poems and plays acted as ‘mediums’ of scientific and political cross-pollination.

2015 Symposium Science in the Archives

Archival research has long been a mainstay of literature and science as a discipline, challenging the boundaries of what can be read as text and excavating long-submerged concepts and connections. The recent growth in collaborative doctoral awards and collections-based PhDs, alongside research strands such as the AHRC’s Science in Culture, however, demonstrate a need to consider more fully the implications of this kind of investigation. The BSLS’s Winter Symposium therefore provides an opportunity for literature and science researchers, at all points in their career, to reflect and build upon the successes and challenges of finding ‘Science in the Archives’.

The majority of us use special collections and archival materials in the course of our literature and science research, but we are not always encouraged to reflect upon the ramifications of doing so. This symposium will provide an important opportunity to stimulate and facilitate much needed discussion of the challenges as well as successes of finding science in the archives

2014 Symposium Teaching Literature and Science

Literature and Science is currently gaining popularity amongst undergraduates, but opportunities for discussing how – and why – to teach it remain thin on the ground. This symposium is designed to help further that discussion by incorporating a broad range of sessions and remaining mindful of the range and variety within our subject area.

Taking a 360-degree perspective on teaching literature and science, our sessions invite contributions from students as well as academic convenors. We are also committed to inviting contributions from those teaching literature and science across all historical periods, working across international educational contexts as well as within the British HE system.

Involving between thirty and forty delegates – for whom attendance will be free – this will be a one-day event incorporating six sessions in a range of formats. In an attempt to maximise discussion and minimise preparation time, we have adopted a different format from the standard academic twenty-minute conference paper, and will ask speakers to present in a more informal tone and for different lengths of time depending on the session. We are particularly keen to draw out and share individuals’ teaching experiences, and it is for that reason that the day is built around ‘the wall’, an exchange of syllabus and teaching ideas which coincides with lunch. All delegates will be asked to complete a short questionnaire about their own expertise and interests at registration, and this information will be used to drive many of the sessions, particularly the afternoon workshop on course design.

We see this symposium as an important opportunity to reflect on the big questions which underlie our teaching, and the opening session, ‘Why should we teach Literature and Science?’, is designed to stimulate this discussion. But this is also an opportunity to tackle some of the pragmatics of introducing undergraduates to our discipline, and an afternoon session on ‘Negotiating University Structures’ will ensure that the bureaucratic side of this enterprise is not neglected. Generous Q&A time is built into each session, and structured discussions are deliberately varied between small and large groups.

Many of us teach literature and science on our own initiative, coping individually with both the joys and challenges raised by the endeavour. This is an important chance to consolidate those experiences and build strategies – and collegial networks – which will continue to drive the field forward at its grass roots: undergraduate teaching.