Thursday, July 20, 2017

CFP - Science Studies and the Blue Humanities

Configurations, the journal of SLSA (The Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts) is seeking submissions for a special issue on Science Studies and the Blue Humanities, edited by Stacy Alaimo. We are interested in essays, position papers, provocations, and artist statements that explore the significance of science studies for the development of the blue humanities. As oceans and bodies of fresh water increasingly become sites for environmentally-oriented arts and humanities scholarship, how can the emerging blue humanities best engage with the theories, questions, paradigms, and methods of science studies? How do questions of scale, temporality, materiality, and mediation emerge in aquatic zones and modes? How can literature, art, data visualization, and digital media best respond to the rapidly developing sciences of ocean acidification and climate change as well as the less publicized concerns such as the effect of military sonar on cetaceans? Work on postcolonial/decolonial science studies, Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK), indigenous sciences, and citizen science especially welcome. Please submit 5,000-7,000 word essays; 3,000 word position papers or provocations; or 2,000 word artist statements (with one or two illustrations or a link to a digital work); to Stacy Alaimo, alaimo[at], by February 1, 2018, for consideration. All essays will be peer-reviewed, following the standard editorial procedures of Configurations.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dates for Michaelmas Term 2017

The John Watson Building Stones Collection: photograph by Sedgwick Museum.

Our meeting dates for next term are now fixed as Mondays 16th and 30th October, and 13th and 27th November, from 7.30-9pm. Since we will be completing our tour of the four ancient elements with a set of readings on 'Earth', we have an appropriate new venue: the Watson Gallery in the Department of Earth Sciences. Many thanks indeed to Simon for arranging this!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Recap - Sea

Thanks to the mild summer evening, we were able to hold our last meeting of term once more on the margins of the water, in the riverside gardens of Darwin College. Marie introduced our two readings by Rachel Carson, taking us through Carson's career, the relationship between scientific practice and science-writing in the mid-twentieth century, and women in science. As the introduction to Lost Woods revealed: 'What is remarkable is not that Carson produced such a small body of work, but that she was able to produce it at all' (xi).

We thought about the literary strategies Carson employed in 'Undersea', and its similarities with and differences from 'The Edge of the Sea': her precision or vagueness, imagery and comparisons, and evocation of previous classics of scientific literature, from Lyell's Principles to Darwin's Origin. We discussed Carson's ecological and environmental awareness, and her striking early illustrations of the interconnected effects of climate change. We went on to consider what was known about the depths of the sea (or les profondeurs, in Marie's favoured terminology) at the time Carson was writing, and how new discoveries of phenomena such as hydrothermal vents have reframed our understanding of the deep as a more active and energetic place, rather than a gloomy stillness punctuated by monstrous creatures (pictures of which Marie showed us). Carson's mention of foraminifera provided Simon with an opportunity to bring along some fabulous actual and 3D-printed examples from the Department of Earth Sciences' teaching collection (photographs below).

Overall, a fantastic end to what has been a thoroughly enjoyable term's conversations on and around four marvellous readings. Next stop, Earth...

Thursday, June 22, 2017

One-Day Colloquium - Theatrical Ecologies and Environments in the Nineteenth Century

Organised in conjunction with Nineteenth Century Theatre and Film

School of Theatre & Performance Studies and Cultural & Media Policy Studies
Millburn House, University of Warwick, CV4 7HS
Saturday 1 July 2017, 9am–6pm

All are warmly invited to attend this one-day colloquium on Theatrical Ecologies and Environments in the Nineteenth Century. Ecocriticism is a hot topic in both Theatre Studies and Nineteenth-Century Studies, yet the environment is still an under-examined area within nineteenth-century theatre circles. This symposium presents a series of panels and speakers addressing this topic from a wide range of perspectives.

Speakers and papers include:
  • Kirsten Shepherd-Barr, 'Behind the Limelight: Theatre's Working Environment'
  • Ann Featherstone, 'Sagacious Canines and Brave Brutes: Re-discovering the Victorian Dog-drama'
  • Michael Gamer, 'Master Betty vs. Carlo the Wonder Dog: The Year of Child/Animal Actors'
  • George Taylor, 'Stedman, Surinam and Theatrical Exoticism at the start of the Nineteenth Century'
  • Cristina Fernandes Rosa, 'Nature, Ecology and Sustainability in Nineteenth-Century Ballet'
  • Susan Anthony, 'Gothic Plays: Supernatural vs. Forces of Nature'
  • Victoria Wiet, 'The Actress in Nature: The Environments of Artistic Development in Victorian Fiction and Life-writing'
  • Katie Jarvis, 'Ecologies of Imperialism: Amazonian Waterlilies, Fairies and Inter-ecosystem Performance'
  • Christina Vollmert, 'Staging Technology: The International Electrotechnical Exhibition in Frankfurt-am-Main, 1891'
  • Evelyn O'Malley, '"Natural" Shakespeare in the Garden'
  • Jiwon Min, 'The Melodramatic Ecology in Nineteenth-Century Theatre'
  • Alexis Harley, 'Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology: the Geological Sublime and the Romantic Theatre'
  • Victoria Garlick, 'The Broadhead Theatre Circuit: An Environmental Perspective'

The fee for this colloquium is £25 per person (reduced registration fee of £15 for PGRs), payable on the day. Lunches/refreshments will be provided; however, delegates are asked to arrange and cover the cost of their own travel and accommodation. Please note that the nearest train station to the campus is in Coventry. Link to registration, directions and accommodation details can be found at: For further information about this event, please contact Patricia Smyth at or Jim Davis at

Theatrical Ecologies and Environments in the 19th Century

Talk - 'Dissolving The Two Cultures: New Histories of Sciences and Humanities in Early Modern Europe'

Dr Nicholas Popper, College of William & Mary

Venue: Small Committee Room (K0.31), King’s College London, King’s Building

Date: 11:30 – 12:30, Thursday 29 June 2017

Abstract: Scholars in recent decades have challenged a crude historical dialectic that posed the scientific revolution as a modernizing challenge to the sclerosis of literary-oriented humanism. Instead, they have shown that the innovative models and methods devised by early modern luminaries like Francis Bacon and Galileo Galilei adapted elements of a dynamic contemporary humanistic culture. Similarly, though less well explored, scholars have shown that practices associated with the scientific revolution such as quantification and empiricism were significant to contemporary politics, history, and law as well. Natural philosophy, astronomy, natural history, philology, history, and art were often intertwined, and imposing a hard boundary between “science” and the “humanities” in the early modern period now appears anachronistic.

Nonetheless, fundamental assumptions rooted in this dichotomy still pervade early modern history of science and intellectual history, and consequently, we still misunderstand the transformations that took place between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. Taking the role of quantification in historical scholarship as a test case, my chapter proposes that mapping the flow of practices across intellectual communities will supply a new logic and narrative for early modern intellectual history. This approach, I argue, will deepen our understanding of the linkages joining early modern Europe’s cultures of knowledge, while also demonstrating how the formation of disciplines and the cleavage of science from the humanities in the late seventeenth century was itself achieved through shifts in practice.

Nicholas Popper is associate professor of history at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of Walter Ralegh’s History of the World and the Historical Culture of the Late Renaissance (Chicago, 2012). He works on early modern intellectual history, history of science, political practice, and the history of the book. His current project examines how the proliferation of archives and manuscript collecting transformed politics and epistemology in early modern Britain. To help with planning, it would be greatly appreciated if you rsvp to: angel-luke.o’'

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Call for Chapters - Posthuman Pooh: Edward Bear after 100 Years

Deadline for Submissions: August 31, 2017

Full name / Name of Organization: Jennifer Harrison, East Stroudsburg University, USA

Contact email:

I am currently seeking chapter submissions for an edited volume celebrating the centenary in 2026 of A. A. Milne's The World of Pooh. As classics from the "golden age" of children's literature, Milne's Pooh stories have received considerable attention from critics and fans over the years; however, less critical attention has been devoted to the continuing relevance of the Pooh phenomenon in contemporary children's culture. As recent critics have discussed, the Pooh stories are complex and multifaceted, written in many different modes and employing a vast array of different narrative styles and techniques; they have also undergone transformation and adaptation into a plethora of related cultural artefacts.

In celebration of the 100th anniversary of The World of Pooh, therefore, this volume will explore Pooh in light of cutting-edge children's literature and culture theory, with a particular focus on the stories as addressing the fundamentally modern posthuman concern with interrogations of the boundaries between the human and the non-human, the material and the immaterial.

Submissions of an interdisciplinary nature are particularly welcome, as are submissions which examine the relationship between the texts and modern adaptations and artefacts. Some potential areas of exploration might include:
  • The blurring of human-animal-toy boundaries
  • Explorations of space and place within the stories
  • Adaptations for film and TV
  • The marketing of the Pooh franchise
  • Explorations of time within the stories
  • Material culture and artefacts within the stories
  • Bodies and identity within the stories
  • Postcolonial and ecocritical readings

However, this list is nowhere near exhaustive and I am happy to consider any submission which focuses on the Pooh stories and their role in modern children's culture.

I hope to include chapters by authors from a variety of disciplines and viewpoints, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of current studies in children's literature and culture, as well as the diverse relevance of the Pooh stories in modern children's culture. Please submit a 500-word chapter abstract and a biography of no more than 250 words by August 31, 2017, to:

You can also see a digital version of the CFP at:

All proposed abstracts will be given full consideration, and submission implies a commitment to publish in this volume if your work is selected for inclusion. If selected, completed chapters will be due by December 30, 2017.

All questions regarding this volume should be directed to:

I look forward to what I hope will be a stimulating and exciting array of submissions on this fascinating topic!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Conference - The Society of Arts and the Encouragement of Mineralogy and Geology, 1754-1900

The registration page is open for the forthcoming HOGG conference, The Society of Arts and the Encouragement of Mineralogy and Geology, 1754-1900, to be held on 9th November, 2017 at the Geological Society, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London.

For more information and to register, please see the website.

The Society of Arts’ role in the history of geology and mineralogy is a generally overlooked aspect of development of our disciplines, which this conference will begin to rectify and, hopefully, to stimulate further research. We look forward to seeing you there. Please feel free to forward this notice to friends and colleagues who could be interested but who may not yet be members of the History of Geology Group.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Play reading at Whipple - Isaac's Eye

This Wednesday at the Whipple Museum, we are hosting a free staged reading of Isaac's Eye, a play by Lucas Hnath, 17.00 - 19.00, in connection with 'Staging the History of Science', the exhibition at the Whipple Library by Julia Ostmann and Alona Bach, HPS MPhil students. The Whipple Library will be open from 16.30 - 17.00 to view the exhibition.

When young Isaac Newton meets the great Robert Hooke - the most famous and powerful scientist in Britain - the resulting battle of intellects and egos pulses with wit, humour and tension. Presented in conjunction with 'Staging the History of Science', an exhibition at the Whipple Library.

Arrive from 16.30 to visit the library exhibition.

This amateur production is presented by arrangement with Josef Weinberger Ltd.

Free. Please arrive on time.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

26th June - Sea

Our final meeting of our aquatic terms goes under the sea, reading two pieces by Rachel Carson: 'Undersea', from the  Atlantic Monthly (1937), 322-325, and 'The Edge of the Sea', an address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1953). Both are republished in Linda Lear (ed.), Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson (1999), or contact MK for a copy.

We meet at Darwin College in our old venue of the Newnham Grange Seminar Room from 7.30-9pm on Monday 26th June.

All welcome!

Recap - Ice

Our third meeting of term took to the Victorian stage and the Arctic wilderness as we discussed The Frozen Deep by Wilkie Collins (with significant input from one Charles Dickens). Simon and his cardboard cast gave a wonderful introduction to the play's influences (notably the 1845 Franklin expedition and the lost Erebus and Terror, the great mystery of which continued to fascinate audiences back in Britain), its writing, dramatis personae, and initially rapturous reception in 1856 (even the set's carpenters were weeping), before a failed attempt at a revival a decade later. Using clips from The Invisible Woman (a 2013 film), he reflected on the play's connections to the unconventional personal lives of both Collins and Dickens.

We went on to discuss several key themes of the play: we explored its presentation of the relationship between destiny and precognition, as epitomised in the striking visions (or 'Claravoyance') of a key character, and links to contemporary interests in spiritualism and clairvoyance (perhaps getting a bit more unfashionable by the mid-1860s?), or the drawing of lots between officers and men; we looked at the work's theatricality (for instance in its staged vision), its drama and melodrama, and how even though it is set in a larger Arctic landscape its acts present a series of three interlinked chamber pieces with quite domestic situations, and the intervening perils only alluded to through (characteristically clunky) expository monologues (with a hint of Monty Python, we thought?).

We thought about why the Artic setting might matter, or not? Was it just a conveniently fashionable location, or - with its connotations of peril, extremity, and isolation - did both supernatural phenomena seem closer to the surface, and also deeper emotions and motivations possible to access? The character of Richard Wardour, in particular, seemed key: was he, as Dickens's biographer Claire Tomalin suggested, an opportunity for Dickens to play a man who overcame his instincts to make a final great sacrifice? Was he someone with frozen emotions until galvanised by a particular situation, or hot-headed throughout? Indeed, we explored whether characters (the Dickens influence?) or plot (the Collins influence?) could be seen as the play's primary driving force.

Overall, a lively discussion and very helpful comments from all who attended: thanks to everyone! Next time we move off from the floating ice-sheets to submerge ourselves under the sea with two pieces by Rachel Carson.

Other songs, poems, etc., referred to in our discussion (with special thanks to the Canadians):

'The Cremation of Sam McGee' by Robert W. Service 

Simon's cardboard cast, as captured by Charissa.