Monday, September 25, 2017

CFP - ‘Games, Values and AI’

15 December 2017, Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence, University of Cambridge

This workshop aims to bring together researchers from different backgrounds to explore the philosophical and social issues raised by games as inspiration, model, testbed or context for Artificial Intelligence.

We welcome contributions from any field of research that illuminates the philosophical and social dimensions of AI in relation to games. Possible topics include (but are not limited to) the Ethics of AI and Games, Narratives of AI, Games in AI Research, Intelligence and Game-Playing and the Aesthetics and Art Theory of Games.

Deadline for submissions: 31 October 2017.

Submission format: Send a 200-300 word abstract (excluding references), prepared for anonymous review, together with separate documents containing contact details, to Rune Nyrup, subject headline: “Games, Values and AI”.Organisers: Rune Nyrup and Henry Shevlin. Further details here.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

CFP - Soirées: socialising knowledge, innovation and material culture, 1837-1924

A one-day conference at the Royal Society, London, 27 April 2018.

This event aims to explore the purpose, content, audiences and impact of Victorian and Edwardian soirées from 1837 to the British Empire Exhibition in 1924. We invite papers and posters exploring these cultures.

Soirées developed from eighteenth century salons and society ‘at homes’, and the term ‘soirée’ was increasingly used interchangeably with ‘conversazione’. By the mid-nineteenth century a typical social event included exhibitions at a learned society or civic building with associated talks or lectures. The Royal Society’s scientific conversazioni at Burlington House were the equivalent of the Royal Academy’s displays of art. They were attended by ‘literary lions, artistic celebrities, famous lecturers upon science, distinguished inventors in mechanics, discoverers of planets’ and they foregrounded ‘the very pick of the best of the most recent inventions’ (The Standard, April 1871). However, these were not purely scientific gatherings. At the Royal Society, for example, William Morris majolica tiles might be displayed alongside Australian meteorites. Celebrated artists including Gustav Doré and Lawrence Alma-Tadema showed their work. Around them, scientists, clergymen, artists and politicians networked in environments where new technologies – colour and motion photography, high-speed and novel printing techniques, film and television – held equal promise for science and the arts. Women too, were present, as exhibitors and audience. Scholars have an increasingly good grasp of the public culture of science in this period. However, the ephemeral aspects of the social activities of learned and societies, field clubs and fledgling museums, and the extent to which their activities supported organisational goals, have not been systematically researched, nor has their complex ecology of regional and national material culture, with its potential for dynamic inter-personal and inter-institutional relationships.

Contributors might consider some of the following questions:

1. What were the ambitions behind the evolving design of period soirées at the Royal Society and at other organisations at home and abroad? Did such temporary displays leave a permanent legacy in museum culture?

2. How were the contents of such displays and demonstrations determined, and what was the profile and responses of stakeholders and audiences?

3. What can be learned about how visions of the future were mobilised and materialised in the ‘pre-disciplinary’ networked cultures of innovation in soirées? Did they contribute to the development of new technologies and new disciplinary specialisms?

4. Is the demise of the soirée associated with the decline of empire? Or is it in part related to the development of mass media and new communications media?

Important information

This conference is co-organised by Professor Sandra Kemp, V&A and Keith Moore, Royal Society. Enquiries should be addressed to

* Papers - abstract: 300 words (30 minute papers)
* Poster presentations – abstract 300 words

Deadline for abstracts: 31 October 2017

Send abstracts to:

Authors will be notified by 14 November 2017

It is intended that, with the Editor’s agreement, papers should be included in a special issue of Notes and Records of the Royal Society<>.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

CFP - Synergy and contradiction: How picturebooks and picture books work

Cambridge Research and Teaching Centre for Children's Literature

University of Cambridge, UK
September 6-8, 2018

The aesthetic aspects of storytelling through word and image have been studied extensively in the past thirty-odd years. In 1982, the Swedish scholar Kristin Hallberg launched the concept of iconotext that has been widely employed in discussing the phenomenon. Perry Nodelman's Words about Pictures (1988) was a landmark that placed the subject firmly within children's literature research. The first international conference wholly devoted to the art form was held in Stockholm in 1998, featuring, among others, Jane Doonan and William Moebius. An international network was established in 2007, running biennial conferences and workshops. Dozens of monographs and edited volumes have been published, the most recent More Words about Pictures (2017), edited by Perry Nodelman, Naomi Hamer and Mavis Reimer, and The Routledge Companion to Picturebooks (2017), edited by Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer.

And yet there is no universal consensus about the object of inquiry, starting with the controversy of spelling. While most scholars agree that the interaction of words and images is essential, there is no clear agreement on the difference between illustrated books and picture book/picturebooks, nor on the differences and similarities between picture books/picturebooks and comics, nor on the relationship between printed and digital texts.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary since the publication of Words about Pictures and to explore the recent development in picture book/picturebook theories, Cambridge Research and Teaching Centre for Children's Literature invites paper proposals on any aspect of theoretical approaches to picture books/picturebooks as an art form. We are particularly interested in new approaches that go beyond statements that picture books/picturebooks depend on the combination of the verbal and the visual. We also welcome authors, illustrators, publishers and translators. Possible topics include, but are not restricted to:
  • Picture book/picturebook as an art form and a material object 
  • Picture books/picturebooks and other word/image-driven texts (e.g. illustrated books, picture dictionaries, concept books, artist books)
  • Metalanguage for discussing picture books/picturebooks: coming to terms
  • Theory vs. culture: how trustworthy are the semiotic generalizations of books like Words about Pictures or How Picturebooks Work in relationship to picture books/picturebooks produced in different times, places, cultures? Is there a universal language of picture books/picturebooks?
  • Picture book/picturebook design: creators' perspective
  • Is there anything beyond words and images? Picture books/picturebooks without words? Picture books/picturebooks without pictures?
  • Looking at words, seeing pictures (e.g. implications of fonts, intraiconic texts, etc)
  • Young readers' engagement with word/image storytelling: do words and pictures invite different kinds of relationships between texts and readers?
  • How have adjacent areas of research benefited from picture book/picturebook theory, for instance, digital literature, comics, graphic novels and games?
  • Translation and transmediation
We will not consider proposals on content-focused topics.

Confirmed jousters are Perry Nodelman and Maria Nikolajeva.

Deadline: January 8, 2018. 300-word (or any size image) proposals for a 20-minute paper should be sent, together with a 100-word bio, to We also encourage panel and round-table proposals. Early indication of interest would be helpful in arranging affordable accommodation. Further inquiries to

Please note that this conference is not a part of the Picturebook Network series

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Women on Newton: a series of lectures by women scholars about the world and legacy of Isaac Newton (1642-1727), natural philosopher

Milstein Room, University Library Cambridge
Tickets are limited: book here.


30 November 2017 (16.30-18.00) NEWTON AND THE LONGITUDE

Isaac Newton is often thought of as an isolated genius working on purely abstract scientific problems. Yet he and his work were often closely linked to practical and political worlds. Nowhere is this more clear than when we look at Newton's role in the story of finding longitude at sea, revealed in the Library's archive.

Speaker: Rebekah Higgitt

Dr Rebekah Higgitt is a Senior Lecturer in History of Science at the University of Kent. She is author of Recreating Newton (2007) and co-author of Finding Longitude (2014) and was one of the curators of the National Maritime Museum's 2014 exhibition, Ships, Clocks & Stars: The Quest for Longitude. She is currently the Principal Investigator on a research project, Metropolitan Science: Places, Objects and Cultures of Practice and Knowledge in London, 1600-1800, funded by the Leverhulme Trust and in collaboration with the Science Museum.



In 1727, Isaac Newton died without a will. In addition to a sizeable fortune and a collection of dutifully catalogued household goods (including chocolate pots, bedsteads and commemorative images of himself), he left behind of mass of papers that proved much more difficult to describe. This enormous mass of writing comprised some ten million words, most of which had never been seen by anyone other than Newton. For this, there was a very good reason. The great majority of his surviving writing is theological, concerned with excavating what Newton saw as a true history of the Church. Were the religious beliefs set down by Newton in these papers made public in his lifetime, he would have been branded a heretic. In this talk, I tell the nearly 300 hundred-year history of the papers he left behind.

Speaker: Sarah Dry

Sarah Dry is the author of The Newton Papers: The Strange and True Odyssey of Isaac Newton's Private Manuscripts (OUP, 2014). She studied at Harvard, Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge and held research fellowships at the LSE and the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex. She is currently writing a book about the history of water and climate science, funded by a Public Scholar grant from the US National Endowment for the Humanities. Since 2016, she has been a Trustee of the Science Museum Group.



Resembling a secular scientific saint, Isaac Newton is widely celebrated as a super-human genius disengaged from ordinary life. Regarding him from a different perspective, this lecture discusses his involvement in Enlightenment affairs and polite society, with a particular focus on analysing roles played by women.

Speaker: Patricia Fara

Dr Patricia Fara is a Fellow of Clare College and President of the British Society for the History of Science. A regular contributor to academic and popular journals as well as In our Time and other radio/TV programmes, her publications include the prize-winning Science: A Four Thousand Year History (2009) and Newton: The Making of Genius (2002). Her latest book, A Lab of One's Own: Science and Suffrage in World War One, will be published in January 2018.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

CFP - JLS/Configurations special issue 2


What are the relations between literature, science and the arts within our field today? This special double issue marks a unique collaboration between the Journal of Literature and Science and Configurations. The first instalment – JLS 10:1 – was published this year and can be read here. We now invite short papers for the second issue, to be published in 2018.

The aim of the double issue is to enable scholars of all career-stages to debate the nature of the interdisciplinary relations of our field in short and sharp “position” papers of approximately 2000 words. We welcome papers which respond directly to pieces published in JLS 10:1, but we also preserve a more general list of suggested topics from our original call:
  1. The meanings of interdisciplinarity in the field
  2. The place of the study of literature and science within the academy
  3. International variations or international synergies
  4. Collaborative work between literature/arts and the scientific community
  5. How do we (now) define "literature" in the dyad of literature and science?
  6. The relationship between cultural theory and historicism in the field
  7. How is literature and science evolving in relation to its own splintering (into animal studies, neuroscience, environmental studies, etc.)?
  8. Speculations: what is the future of the field?
  9. Reflections: where has the field most profited and where has it gone astray?

The editors also particularly welcome discussion of any of the following with respect to the above topics:
  • teaching and pedagogical practice
  • material culture and book history
  • the corporatization of the university
  • the current crisis in the humanities and/or economic pressures on the sciences
Submission information for the second issue:
Length of contribution: 2000 words
Deadline: December 16th, 2017

Send to: Rajani Sudan ( & Will Tattersdill (
(Decisions on inclusion in the second issue by February 2018)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Workshop - AI and Values in Medicine and Healthcare

Centre for the Future of Intelligence
16 Mill Lane, Monday 11 September.

The purpose of the workshop is to explore potential ethical and epistemic issues related to the use of artificial intelligence and other algorithmic methods in medical contexts. The speakers are Phyllis Illari, Brent Mittelstadt, Wolfgang Pietsch and Barbare Prainsack.

Additional information and programme can be found here.

Centenary Conference: ON GROWTH AND FORM 100

13-15 October 2017
University of Dundee and University of St Andrews

2017 marks 100 years since the publication of D’Arcy Thompson’s landmark book On Growth and Form – “the greatest work of prose in twentieth century science” (Stephen Jay Gould), written by the man that Richard Dawkins recently nominated as possibly “the most learned polymath of all time”. One of the key works at the intersection of science and the imagination, it is a book that has inspired scientists, artists and thinkers as diverse as Alan Turing, C H Waddington, Claude Lévi Strauss, Norbert Wiener, Henry Moore and Mies van der Rohe. It pioneered the science of biomathematics, and has had a profound influence in art, architecture, anthropology, geography, cybernetics and many other fields.

To mark the occasion, a three-day interdisciplinary conference is being organised at the Universities of Dundee and St Andrews. It will feature a range of presentations covering every aspect of D’Arcy’s own work and the various fields that it has influenced. The conference will also include visits to the D’Arcy Thompson Zoology Museum and the Bell Pettigrew Museum of Natural History and there will be a special preview of a new exhibition exploring On Growth and Form and its legacy. We are also delighted to welcome two outstanding speakers to give the keynote lectures at the conference. These will be free and open to the public to attend.

Friday 13 October - Lars Spuybroek (NOX / Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta)
Lars Spuybroek is an internationally acclaimed Dutch architect whose practice, NOX, has become renowned for organically inspired projects. Having taught in the University of Kassel and Columbia University, he is now Professor of Architectural Design at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. His lecture will discuss the implications of D’Arcy’s ideas for architecture, drawing on experiments with both analogue as well as digital computing techniques for design.

Saturday 14 October - Evelyn Fox Keller (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) (The Fauvel Lecture, supported by the British Society for the History of Mathematics)
Evelyn Fox Keller is one of the most internationally respected historians of science. A physicist, author and feminist, she is currently Professor Emerita of the History & Philosophy of Science at MIT. Beginning her career in theoretical physics, she moved on to work in molecular biology before becoming renowned for her work as a feminist critic of science. Her books include Keywords in Evolutionary Biology (1998), The Century of the Gene (2000) and Making Sense of Life: Explaining Biological Development with Models, Metaphors, and Machines (2002). The latter has a particular focus on mathematical biology and in her lecture she will discuss the legacy of D’Arcy Thompson’s work.

The venues will be as follows:
Friday 13 October – University of Dundee
Saturday 14 October – University of St Andrews
Sunday 15 October – University of Dundee

The full programme and details for registration can be found at

We gratefully acknowledge support from the Dundee & Angus Convention Bureau for this event.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Talk - 'Lewis Carroll and Violence', Gillian Beer

The 11th Roger Lancelyn Green Memorial Lecture, Presented by The Lewis Carroll Society


Lewis Carroll and Violence

Professor Dame Gillian Beer

7.00 pm Friday 13 October 2017

The Art Workers’ Guild, 6 Queen Square, London WC1N 3AT

Tickets: £10 including a glass of wine

Professor Dame Gillian Beer will deliver the Eleventh Roger Lancelyn Green Memorial Lecture and consider the subject of violence in Lewis Carroll’s Victorian childhood classic.

Lewis Carroll’s worlds of the imagination are places of unexpectedly violent encounters: from the despotic Queen of Hearts terrorising Wonderland with threats of wholesale decapitation to those battling duos beyond the Looking-Glass, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, the Lion and the Unicorn and the Red and White Knights.

The noted British literary critic and academic, Gillian Beer – whose book, Alice in Space: The Sideways Victorian World of Lewis Carroll, has recently been awarded the Truman Capote Prize for Literary Criticism – is eminently placed to explore this topic within the context of Victorian literature and society.

Gillian Beer, educated at St Anne's College, Oxford, was a Fellow at Girton College, Cambridge, between 1965 and 1994. She began lecturing at Cambridge in 1966 and became Reader in Literature and Narrative in 1971. She was made Professor of English in 1989 and, in 1994, became King Edward VII Professor of English Literature and President of Clare Hall at Cambridge. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Professor Beer’s books, which encompass numerous subjects within the field of Victorian studies, include Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction (1983, 3rd edition 2009), Virginia Woolf: The Common Ground (1996) Jabberwocky and Other Nonsense, the collected and annotated poems of Lewis Carroll (2012) and Alice in Space: The Sideways Victorian World of Lewis Carroll (2016).

Book online to reserve your seat:

Tickets will also be available on the door.

The Roger Lancelyn Green Memorial Lecture was inaugurated in 1988 by The Lewis Carroll Society to commemorate the work of the noted biographer and literary scholar, Roger Lancelyn Green, whose books include works on Lewis Carroll, J M Barrie, C S Lewis, Andrew Lang and Rudyard Kipling as well the seminal book on Children’s Literature, Tellers of Tales and many books for young readers retelling classic myths and legends.

Past Roger Lancelyn Green Memorial Lecturers include Sir Jonathan Miller, CBE, John Vernon Lord, Colin Ford, CBE and Professor Morton N Cohen.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Call for essays: 'Gothic Animals: Uncanny Otherness and the Animal With-Out'

'The boundary between the animal and the human has long been unstable, especially since the Victorian period. Where the boundary is drawn between human and animal is itself an expression of political power and dominance, and the "animal" can at once express the deepest fears and greatest aspirations of a society' (Victorian Animal Dreams, 4).

'The animal, like the ghost or good or evil spirit with which it is often associated, has been a manifestation of the uncanny' (Timothy Clark, 185).

In the mid nineteenth-century Charles Darwin published his theories of evolution. And as Deborah Denenholz Morse and Martin A. Danahay suggest, 'The effect of Darwin's ideas was both to make the human more animal and the animal more human, destabilizing boundaries in both directions' (Victorian Animal Dreams, 2). Nineteenth-century fiction quickly picked up on the idea of the 'animal within' with texts like R.L. Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray and H.G. Wells's The Island of Doctor Moreau. In these novels the fear explored was of an unruly, defiant, degenerate and entirely amoral animality lying (mostly) dormant within all of us. This was our animal-other associated with the id: passions, appetites and capable of a complete disregard for all taboos and any restraint. As Cyndy Hendershot states, this 'animal within' 'threatened to usurp masculine rationality and return man to a state of irrational chaos' (The Animal Within, 97). This however, relates the animal to the human in a very specific, anthropocentric way. Non-humans and humans have other sorts of encounters too, and even before Darwin humans have often had an uneasy relationship with animals. Rats, horses, dogs, cats, birds and other beasts have, as Donna Haraway puts it, a way of 'looking back' at us (When Species Meet,19).

Animals of all sorts have an entirely different and separate life to humans and in fiction this often morphs into Gothic horror. In these cases it is not about the 'animal within' but rather the animal 'with-out'; Other and entirely incomprehensible. These non-human, uncanny creatures know things we do not, and they see us in a way it is impossible for us to see ourselves. We have other sorts of encounters with animals too: we eat animals, imbibing their being in a largely non-ritualistic, but possibly still magical way; and on occasion, animals eat us. From plague-carrying rats, to 'filthy' fleas, black dogs and killer bunnies, animals of all sorts invade our imaginations, live with us (invited or not) in our homes, and insinuate themselves into our lives. The mere presence of a cat can make a home uncanny. An encounter with a dog on a deserted road at night can disconcert. The sight of a rat creeping down an alley carries all sorts of connotations as does a cluster of fat, black flies at the window of a deserted house. To date though, there is little written about animals and the Gothic, although they pervade our fictions, imaginations and sometimes our nightmares.

This collection is intended to look at all sorts of animals in relation to the Gothic: beasts, birds, sea-creatures, insects and domestic animals. We are not looking for transformative animals – no werewolves this time – rather we want essays on fictions about actual animals that explore their relation to the Gothic; their importance and prominence within the Gothic. We invite abstracts for essays that cover all animal/bird/insect/fish life forms, from all periods (from the early Modern to the present), and within different types of media – novels, poetry, short stories, films and games.

Topics may include (but are not bound by):

Rats (plague and death)
Dogs (black and otherwise)
Killer bunnies
Uncanny cats
Alien sea creatures
Cows (perhaps with long teeth)
Killer frogs
Beetles, flies, ants, spiders
Animals as marginalised and oppressed
Animals in peril
Animal and human intimacies and the breaking of taboos
Exotic animals/animals in colonial regions (Africa, Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, India)
Demonic animals
Dangerous animals (rabid dogs, venomous snakes)
Invasive animals
Animals and disease
Domestic animals
Uncanny animals
Animals connected to supernatural beings (Satanic goats, vampire bats)
Witchcraft and familiar spirits/animal guides
Rural versus urban animals
Sixth sense and psychic energy

Please send 500 word abstracts and a short bio note by 1 November 2017 to: Dr Ruth Heholt ( and Dr Melissa Edmundson (

The collection is intended for the Palgrave MacMillan 'Studies in Animals and Literature' series. Completed essays must be submitted by 1 July 2018.

Friday, July 28, 2017

CFP - J.G. Ballard & the Sciences

CALL FOR PAPERS: J. G. Ballard & the Sciences
Key Note Speaker: Christopher Priest

Hosted by the Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy (CSFF)

Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, 25th November 2017.

“Science and technology multiply around us. To an increasing extent they dictate the languages in which we speak and think. Either we use those languages, or we remain mute.”  -- J. G. Ballard

From The Drowned World’s early meditations on ecology, to the provocative prosthetics of Crash, through to the psychopathologies at work (or rather play) in Cocaine Nights, Super-Cannes and Kingdom Come, the writings of J.G. Ballard are in constant dialogue with the discourses of science and technology. As a result, his novels and short stories function as vast indexes of scientific innovation and enquiry, immersing the reader in the complex yet often beautiful languages of biology, chemistry, zoology, medicine, botany, neuroscience, bioethics, anatomy, biotechnology and psychology, to name just a few.

Papers are invited for a one-day cross-disciplinary conference on all aspects of the intersections between J.G. Ballard and science. Proposals are welcomed from researchers at all stages of their career, including postgraduate students, independent scholars and creative writers.

Please send proposals or abstracts of up to 300 words along with a short biography to Jeannette Baxter: by: August 31st, 2017.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Philippa Pearce Lecture 2017

Booking is now open for the 2017 Philippa Pearce Lecture, which will be given by Chris Riddell, the celebrated, multi-award-winning illustrator and political cartoonist.

Chris has illustrated over 150 books, collaborating with some of the best known children’s authors of recent decades, including Neil Gaiman and Michael Rosen. Chris has won two CILIP Kate Greenaway Medals, the UK librarians’ annual award for the best-illustrated children’s book, and three Nestlé Smarties Book Prizes. On 9 June 2015 he was appointed the UK Children’s Laureate. During his two-year tenure, he championed creativity, the importance of visual literacy, and the role of libraries in schools. He called on people to enjoy the “joy of doodling” by drawing every day, setting the example with his own fantastic ‘Laureate’s Log’, a whimsical visual diary shared on social media, which has recently been published in a compendium called Travels with My Sketchbook. In the 2017 Philippa Pearce Lecture, Chris will talk about how words and pictures work together for a reader both on traditional page and how he believes this continues to be true in a digital age. He will explore how books are ever more covetable as objects in their own right, as well as valued for the words and illustrations inside, and also how libraries remain vital as repositories for these beautiful productions.

The lecture is entitled, The Age of the Beautiful Book and will take place on September 8th in the Mary Allan Building, Homerton College, Cambridge.

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.

Cambridge BRAINFest - 23-25 June

Cambridge BRAINFest is a public free festival of brain research that will bring together >130 neuroscientists from across Cambridge to present ground breaking research in 30 interactive exhibits covering themes of Development', 'Brain & Body', 'Pain & Pleasure', 'Imagination & Perception' and 'Learning & Forgetting', spanning research from molecule to man. In addition, we will have Q&A sessions with experts at Café Scientifique, BRAINArt (featuring local schools), secret cinema, build-a-brain workshops, an historical self guided neurotrail and interactive neurotheatre, an evening 'Variety Showcase' (with public lectures covering the dyslexic brain, the degenerating brain and the obese brain interspersed with the story of Parkinson's disease through dance and living with dementia through poetry) and an evening of 'Brains & Mental Health' (a question time styled panel discussion, hosted by Professor Sir Simon Wessely, featuring an expert panel). The theme of the evening will focus on how mental illnesses are disorders of the brain, the ongoing research that will help us better understand and treat these disorders and how we can bridge the existing gap between neuroscience research and current practice in the health service. Please see programme flyer attached.

We hope that Cambridge BRAINFest will not only provide opportunities for mutual learning between scientists and members of the public, but also facilitate the transition of research findings into real life applications within a diverse range of public policy areas including health, education and law.

Join the conversation on @CamNeuro #CambridgeBRAINfest and on Facebook

Programme of events | Open to the public, FREE |
Bookings now open! (for evening events)
No booking required for the Cambridge Corn Exchange daytime events

Friday 23rd June 2017

19:00-21:00 Cambridge BRAINFest Variety Showcase

Babbage Lecture Theatre, University of Cambridge

Booking now open!


Saturday 24th June 2017

10:00-15:30 Thematic Showcase, Corn Exchange main auditorium

10:30-15:30 Café Scientifique @ Cambridge BRAINFest, St John's room

10:00-15:30 BRAINArt @ Cambridge BRAINFest, Corn Exchange foyer

10:00-15:30 Secret Cinema @ Cambridge BRAINFest, The King's room

19:00-21:00 Brains & Mental Health @ Cambridge BRAINFest

Babbage Lecture Theatre, University of Cambridge

Booking now open!


Sunday 25th June 2017

10:00-16:00 Thematic Showcase, Corn Exchange main auditorium

10:00-16:00 Café Scientifique @ Cambridge BRAINFest, St John's room

10:00-16:00 BRAINArt @ Cambridge BRAINFest, Corn Exchange foyer

10:00-16:00 Secret Cinema @ Cambridge BRAINFest, The King's room


Additional notes

BRAINArt is an exhibition of brain associated art by local children. In the lead up to Cambridge BRAINFest, we visited 1400 students, talked about the brain and 'hopefully' inspired the students to create brain art. A selection of their artwork will be on display throughout the festival in the foyer of the Cambridge Corn Exchange.

Secret Cinema - The King's Room at the Corn Exchange will be transformed into the Cambridge BRAINFest secret cinema. Festival goers will be able to take a break from the showcase exhibit downstairs and view a collection of films from across the Cambridge Neuroscience community. The secret cinema will run for the duration of the festival and details will be provided in the programme and on information screens throughout the festival.

Cambridge Neurotrail is a walking self guided map of Cambridge with neuroscience points of historical interest. We can provide copies of this to you and your guides/ambassadors.

Hopefully this has been useful to you but please let me know if you need any more details.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Job - Research Fellow, 'Land Lines: Modern British Nature Writing, 1789–2015' (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council)

Led by Professor Graham Huggan, with co-investigators Dr David Higgins (University of Leeds), Dr Christina Alt (University of St Andrews) and Dr Will Abberley (University of Sussex), the project’s main aim is to produce a co-written book, contracted to Cambridge University Press, on modern British nature writing, but it will also involve a variety of academic and engagement activities working with partners including the Booth Museum and Yorkshire Wildlife Trust.

You will play a full role in the research and impact agenda of the project. You will work with Professor Huggan and Dr Higgins to organise the project conference in 2018 and will play a key role in liaising with project partners and ensuring that the project engages academic and non-academic audiences. You will also be supported to conduct your own related research and publication in ecocriticism and/or the environmental humanities.

You will have a PhD in English, with a specialism in ecocriticism and/or the environmental humanities. You will also have experience of conducting research and the ability to contribute to the research culture of the School and other project-related bodies at the University.

To explore the post further or for any queries you may have, please contact:

Professor Graham Huggan, Principal Investigator, email:

Jobs - Post-Doc Positions on a Narrative Science Project

Applications are invited for 3 Post-Docs to work on the EU-funded project Narrative Science under the direction of the principal investigator, Professor Mary S. Morgan at the London School of Economics. This team project will investigate how, when, and why scientists use narratives to explain their work within their own communities. Each researcher will develop their own case materials within the overall project, working - by agreement with the project leader - on particular topics and fields of science past and present.

It is expected that candidates will have a PhD in history of science, or a closely related field (including narrative studies, science communication, etc) provided you have some experience of historical research work; or you must have an equivalent track record of independent and original research.

As part of their application, candidates are asked to write a brief response to the larger project summary, found here.

The job advert is found here (which links to further details and tells you how to apply). The closing date is June 22nd.

There will shortly also be an advert for a Research Fellow to help run the project, and to curate a web-based 'library' of case studies in narrative science.

Candidates are welcome to apply to both.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Event - Mathematics meets art at Isaac Newton Institute

A conversation with artist Nigel Hall RA 19 July 2017

The Isaac Newton Institute is proud to offer an open invitation to an audience with artist Nigel Hall RA.

Scheduled as part of INI's 25th anniversary celebrations, the event will examine the complex and inspiring relationship between art and mathematics, told via the medium of Nigel Hall's compelling geometric artworks. Nigel, whose works are exhibited across the globe from New York's Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) to the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, will be joined by Dr Dorothy Buck (Reader in Biomathematics, Imperial College London; co-organiser of INI's HTL programme) and Barry Phipps (Fellow and Curator of Works of Art, Churchill College).

A selection of maquettes, framed drawings and a major outdoor sculpture will be on display in and around INI from 20 June until 18 August, and available for guests to experience during the event. Through them, Nigel's work aims to explore: "the governing principles of how we experience the world, and how to express this in its most refined way with clarity, order and calm".

WHERE? Isaac Newton Institute, 20 Clarkson Road, CB3 0EH
WHEN? 19 July 2017 at 17:00

Light refreshments will be provided

Whipple Library exhibition launch today - 'Staging the History of Science'

A final reminder about the launch event today (Thursday 1 June) to celebrate the installation of 'Staging the History of Science; an exhibit in three acts' by HPS MPhil students Julia Ostmann & Alona Bach. The display is looking very good, and the launch promises to be a fun event, running from 5.30-6.45pm (approx.).

Access is via the Library's 'evening entrance' in Storey's Gate (off Pembroke Street, or go out of the back door of the Dept and turn sharp right), and a member of staff will be there to welcome you if your card is not active for the swipe door. You are welcome to turn up on spec, but if you can sign up via the following form there's a greater chance we'll have enough refreshments:

With thanks and best wishes from all at the Whipple.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

5th June - Ice

Our next meeting will take place on Monday 5th June at Darwin College: we will be reading The Frozen Deep by Wilkie Collins.  Further reading is available here, or why not listen to an extract from its Overture here?

All welcome!

Recap - Rain

On what was one of the sunniest and warmest days of the year so far, we met to discuss Ray Bradbury's 'Death-By-Rain', or 'The Long Rain'. Liz gave a fantastic introduction, which introduced not only Bradbury's own life and ambitions (to 'prevent' not just to 'predict' the future), and the film version of the set text (see above), but also set 'The Long Rain' in a context of 1920s-1960s Venus stories. Based on observations of the planet's cloud cover, these tales often depicted Venus as a water-world: a tropical jungle, humid, warm, and uniform, akin to a prehistoric Earth. Bradbury's story - Liz showed - used this setting for a extreme adventure narrative, looking at the psychological and sensory experiences of people trying to navigate such an unforgiving landscape.

Our discussion followed on from these themes, to explore how Bradbury focused on the reactions of his militaristic men to the situation they were in (with, perhaps, slight inconsistencies or unanswered questions of plot or detail), rather than providing an omniscient overview. We looked at his ways of describing the rain - whether through the repetition of the word 'rain', to place the reader, like his characters, under its ceaseless or even torturing presence; or through passages where the rain took on more of a character or agency, posing for photographs, turning into monstrous forms and storms. We considered how the protagonists became unmoored in time and space, with fast-growing vegetation and aimless wandering, bleached- and leached-out bodies and hopeless futures; and wondered what on earth (or on Venus) they were doing there. Finally, we considered the story's ambiguous ending: was the heavenly-sounding Sun Dome just too good to be true?

Our next meeting - continuing to be seasonally inappropriate, and to think about extreme adventures - will be a discussion of The Frozen Deep.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Talk - 'Polar Opposites: American and Norwegian voices in the exploration of Franz Josef Land'

P.J. Capelotti (Professor of Anthropology, Penn State University), Scott Polar Research Institute (Lecture Theatre), Tuesday, 13 June at 4.30pm

Capelotti will discuss his research into the history of place names in Franz Josef Land, and read from his new book The Greatest Show in the Arctic: the American exploration of Franz Josef Land, 1898-1905. This delves deeply into three fatally flawed American attempts to reach the North Pole from the Russian archipelago of Franz Josef Land between 1898 and 1905. The expeditions were led, in turn, by a nationally-syndicated journalist running from debts, a mistress, and an illegitimate daughter; a deranged meteorologist with a fetish for balloons and Swedish conserves; and a pious photographer in search of God in the Arctic. All three leaders were supported by international casts of characters worthy of a three-ring circus. Two of the expeditions were haunted by still-unexplained deaths and all witnessed both improbable triumphs and ultimate failures.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

CFP - Reading Euclid in the early modern world: research workshop

Thursday and Friday 14 and 15 December 2017, All Souls College, Oxford

Euclid's Elements of Geometry was highly visible in early modern culture: a touchstone for mathematical training as well as a spur to new mathematical research throughout the period. In this period dozens of editions of the Elements were printed, and it was certainly the most widely read mathematical book of the time. Different editors made very different choices about the content and layout of the Elements and the other works attributed to Euclid, based on different assumptions about the meaning and authenticity of the texts and their component parts. Likewise, different readers approached the text in very different ways, bringing to it very different assumptions about the use of (printed) texts, and about the kind of text the Elements was and the kind of attention it deserved: logical or philological, geometrical or practical. Many readers annotated the text, and many selected sections for copying into exercise books. During this period, standards of geometrical proof were being actively questioned by mathematicians, but geometrical methods were being deliberately brought into other fields such as medicine, physics, and philosophy.

This workshop will consider the ways early modern people engaged with Euclid's works – from schoolchildren and artisans to teachers and scholars – and attempt to understand their role in their lives and in culture. It will examine the unique cultural position Euclidean geometry occupied and how that position was shaped and maintained. Invited speakers will include Renee Raphael, Robert Goulding, Catherine Jami, Sabine Rommevaux, Sebastien Maronne, Yelda Nasifoglu and Philip Beeley.

Proposals for papers are invited on all aspects of early modern reading of and engagement with the works of Euclid. Proposals should include an abstract of no more than 250 words and a brief CV, and should be emailed to by 1 August 2017. The conference can provide accommodation, and contribute to travel costs, for speakers.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

22nd May - Rain

Our second meeting of term will take place at Darwin College from 7.30-9pm in 1 Newnham Terrace. We will be reading a short story by Ray Bradbury, first published as 'Death-By-Rain' in Planet Stories (1950), and then as 'The Long Rain' in several collections of his short stories, including The Illustrated Man (1951). Editions of The Illustrated Man are available in the University Library, or contact MK for a copy of the story.

All welcome!

Recap - River

We began our term's readings with 'water's soliloquy', the wonderful Dart by Alice Oswald. A lively conversation flowed - just like the poem's Protean protagonist (Proteagonist?) - from voice to voice, place to place, topic to topic, well-chosen word to well-chosen word.

Sound loomed large: we foregrounded the poem's connections to oral traditions and its effectiveness when spoken out loud; we considered Oswald's research process recording a variety of interviews to ensure the poem was 'made from the language of people who live and work on the Dart', 'who know the river'; we reflected on her mental compositional practices while constructing her 'sound-map', or 'songline'.

Drawing these voices together into the 'mutterings' of the river provided a sense of shifts in perspectives and of being somewhat adrift in time: former trades and industries of the region sat alongside cutting-edge technologies (both commercial and leisurewear). However, we felt the poem avoided nostalgia or sentimentalism; indeed, its commitment to evoking a particular multifaceted landscape prompted a more nuanced set of environmental concerns. (We felt we would come back to these more ecological or political concerns when reading Rachel Carson later in the term.)

The glimpses of people or views moved past the reader, some members of the group thought, like those glimpsed through the window of a train -  just enough detail for each person to make them feel like a rounded character, but leaving one wanting more. All of these different voices, we felt, claimed an ownership of the river, or at least a synecdochic part of it (a bank, a bend), as theirs. The reliance on the river, and its central place in their lives, was clear, and our thoughts on this topic were immeasurably enhanced by the contributions of two participants who had grown up around the Dart. They agreed that there was a sense of place specific to this river, and which Oswald had been able to capture and convey.

The reading experiences of group members were shared, whether rushing through, revelling in its sounds and imagery, before returning with a more deliberate approach to Oswald's unusual but apposite vocabulary; or being confronted by the poem's difficulty, and considering the problems of translation. Throughout, it was felt the poem's interconnectedness and interdisciplinary nature, drawing on myth, memory, or even the natural historical gory spectacle of an eel eating its way out of a heron (yuck!), shows how the river brings together these voices, images, vocabularies, and authorities as complementary sources of expertise, while paying homage to the wider connotation of rivers as lifeblood.

Overall, then, a marvellous session to start the term, and a pleasure to see new, familiar, and returning participants. Next, we face the Venusian rain, and I'm not sure a brolly will be enough to protect you...

Monday, May 08, 2017

Show - Song of Contagion

Song of Contagion hits the stage in London on June 13-17th. The show mashes the world's great musical traditions together into a show that explores how industry lobbying, patient activism and media hype interact to distort priority setting in global health. You can book tickets here. More about the show and the project here.

If you've never been to Wilton's, it's worth coming to the show just to see this fantastic Victoran-era music hall in all its crumbling, East End glory (the BBC Proms follow us to Wilton's in July). Come also, of course, because Song of Contagion will be thought-provoking and damned good fun. Wilton's is within walking distance of the last cholera outbreak in London (1866) - the subject of one of our songs.

On Saturday June 17th, London historian, guide and all-round great entertainer Sophie Campbell will lead a walk exploring how the disease, and the great Victorian engineering project that wiped it out, affected Londoners. Sign up here.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Screening - William Herschel and the Universe: a film by George Sibley

 On March 13th, 1781, in his own back yard, using a telescope he built himself, a 42-year old musician named William Herschel found a new planet for the first time in history. That discovery doubled the size of the known solar system and would change not only his own life, but astronomy as well. William Herschel and the Universe, by Florida film maker George Sibley, tells the story of how a previously unknown amateur astronomer and his telescopes took the scientific world by storm.

Special showing in seminar room 2, Department of History & Philosophy of Science, Free School Lane, Cambridge CB2 3RH 6 June 2017, 4pm Introduced by the filmmaker George Sibley, the film will be followed by a Q&A with George Sibley and Simon Schaffer.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Seminar - ‘Literature, experiment and eighteenth-century balloons: light verse and other flying hits’

This upcoming seminar in the Faculty of English will be of interest to any who enjoyed our ballooning adventures in the air last term:

This term’s second and final meeting of the English Faculty’s 18th-Century and Romantic Studies seminar will take place on Thursday 11th May at 5pm in the Board Room, Faculty of English. Prof. Clare Brant (King’s College London) will speak on the subject, ‘Literature, experiment and eighteenth-century balloons: light verse and other flying hits.’ A synopsis of the paper follows below. All are welcome.

“In 1783, fire balloons were successfully sent aloft by the Montgolfiers, and swiftly joined by balloons raised by gas. The philosophical and practical consequences of these experiments were immense: at last humans could fly. What would they do with this astonishing opportunity? In the period of balloon madness which followed, writers took up the subject with enthusiasm. Balloons inspired heroic poems, satires, fictions, epigrams, sonnets and philosophical verse. As it celebrated aerial achievements and aired thoughtful ambivalence, the literature of balloons played with experiment and enlightenment. It also has an interesting tendency to light verse, which invites new critical thinking. My presentation discusses some highlights from the literature of balloon madness.”
Those wishing to undertake some preparatory reading should request the recommended article and poems from Christopher Tilmouth, Faculty of English.

Clare Brant is Professor of Eighteenth-Century Literature & Culture at King’s College London, where she co-directs the Centre for Life-Writing Research. Her book Eighteenth-Century Letters and British Culture won the ESSE Book Award of 2008; her book Balloon Madness: Flights of Imagination 1783-1786 will be published by Boydell & Brewer this autumn.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Exhibition - People, Politics and the International Geophysical Year

Talk - 'Lewis Carroll and Darwin'

Children's Literature Children's Lives is pleased to announce our next event:

Laura White, "Lewis Carroll and Darwin."
 Tuesday 30th May 2017 5:30 – 7pm.Room 218, Arts Two, Queen Mary University of London.

As has long been understood by scholars, Carroll's Alice books revel in complex jokes about Darwinian theory. But what did Carroll really make of Darwin's challenge to older thinking about nature, and what then are the satiric objects of his nonsensical jokes, such as the evolutionarily-challenged Mock Turtle? This presentation will examine the evidence concerning Carroll's views of Darwin and explore the nature of his jokes on Darwinian ideas.

Laura White is John E. Weaver Professor of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the author of several books on Jane Austen, her last being Jane Austen's Anglicanism (Ashgate, 2011). She has also published widely on interdisciplinary topics in nineteenth-century British culture and literature, and has recently inaugurated a data-mining site on Austen's diction, Austen Said ( Her most recent book, The Alice Books and the Contested Ground of the Natural World, is forthcoming from Routledge this spring.

This event is free but please RSVP
We look forward to seeing you there!

With best regards,

Lucie and Kiera


Children's Literature/ Children's Lives

Children's Literature/ Children's Lives is part of the Centre for Childhood Cultures

8th May - River

We begin our explorations of water by discussing Alice Oswald's marvellous river-poem, Dart (2002), on Monday 8th May at Darwin College from 7.30-9pm. A version should be available online here for those with University access, and editions of the book can also be found in several College, University, and local libraries. For full details of the term's readings please see this previous post.

All welcome!

HPS Departmental Seminars, Easter Term 2017

(Group members might be particularly interested in the frog-related talk on 25th May!)

Departmental Seminars, History and Philosophy of Science
Thursdays, 3:30-5pm, HPS Seminar Room, with tea from 3pm

4 May
Heather Douglas (University of Waterloo)
The materials for trust-building in expertise

The need for expertise is undisputed in today's complex society, but what expertise is, how to identify it, and how to build trust in it is hotly contested. Some philosophers presume that experts should be trusted and provide cursory means of assessment. Other philosophers argue that only experts can identify other experts, and thus we can do nothing but trust experts and hope for the best. Still other philosophers rightly point out that experts have failed some groups of people (and been part of past injustices), so trust is something that must be earned. This debate takes place against a backdrop of an increasing rejection of expertise in Western democracies, and thus addressing these issues takes on some urgency. In this talk, I will argue that expertise consists of a fluency of judgement in a complex terrain. While such fluency cannot be transferred to non-experts quickly or easily (we cannot all become experts in everything), expertise can and should be assessed by non-experts. I will articulate plausible bases for assessment experts by non-experts, and argue that crucial trust-building materials are to be found among them.

11 May
Twenty-Second Annual Hans Rausing Lecture
Lissa Roberts (University of Twente)
The history of failure: a chronicle of losers or key to success?
McCrum Lecture Theatre, Bene't Street, at 4.30pm

18 May
Henry Cowles (Yale University)
Scientific habits circa 1900

In the decades around 1900, habits were scientific. Psychologists saw mental habits as the intersection of an evolutionary past and an experimental future, while neurologists thought that habit signaled the mind's bodily roots. This talk explores the consequences of this attention to habit in the emerging human sciences, including the idea that science itself was (or could be) habitual. The sciences of habit helped recast the scope of scientific thinking and the reach of moral judgement, as issues of choice, willpower and belonging were naturalized in new ways.

25 May
Lydia Patton (Virginia Tech)
Frogs in space: physiological research into metric relationships and laws of nature

A surprising amount of research into theories of space and time in the nineteenth century involved experiments done on frogs' reactions to stimuli. William James and Hugo Munsterberg performed classic such experiments, but there was a much broader group involved. Those who cited the research and used it in their discussions of spatial relationships, and of the relationship between physiological and metric space, include Henri Poincaré and Ernst Mach. Hermann von Helmholtz used experiments on frogs to establish a number of his most important results, including the claim that sensations are not propagated instantaneously but take time to propagate along a nerve. Helmholtz used other experiments on frogs to argue against the existence of a vital force, a key element of his proof of the conservation of force (energy), and a turning point in nineteenth-century physiology and medicine. Frogs mediated between the physiological and the metric: in theories of space and movement, and in theories of metabolism, energy and sensation. The formulation of well-known scientific laws during this time sprang from physiological as well as physical reasoning, and the domain of application of those laws extended to living bodies as well as to inert physical masses. Philosophers who argued that spatiotemporal relationships are fundamental to all sciences, like Cassirer and arguably Poincaré, were drawing on this history in part. The history of amphibious research forms part of the background to accounts of scientific law, like Wigner's and Mach's, that draw on evolution, perception and consciousness, including Wigner's controversial argument that consciousness collapses the wave function.

For more information on this series, please visit the website.

Event - 'STEM and Beyond? Informal Science Learning Across Disciplines'

Brunel University London, Friday 19th May.

We have fifteen presentations on STEM Communication, STEM and the arts, and STEM, social science and interdisciplinarity, including a keynote from Prof Martin Bauer (LSE).

Tickets are free but numbers are limited and registration is essential. Please register via the Eventbrite.

Further information can also be found on the Science in Public Research Network page.

Contact including STEM in the subject for further information.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Cabinet of Natural History, Easter Term 2017

Group members might be particularly interested in Mark Wormald's talk on 8 May, 'Poetic electrons: Ted Hughes and the mayfly'. Abstract here:
In 1981, the artist Leonard Baskin wrote to the poet Ted Hughes with a list of fifteen projected poems about insects that would feature in their next collaboration. It began with ‘The Mayfly’. A poem with that title appeared in London Magazine in 1983, but was never collected. The central poem in Flowers and Insects (1986) which Baskin illustrated, ‘Saint’s Island’, incorporates several phrases and insights first used in ‘The Mayfly’. And in 1993 Hughes published ‘The Mayfly is Frail’, in a revised text of his collection River (first published in 1983).
This paper describes Hughes’s education in the mayfly. Like its subject, it had a long and hidden larval stage, but took memorable flight in a fishing trip to Ireland in May 1982, which ended at Saint's Island on Lough Ree. Two remarkable prose accounts of this trip are among Hughes’ papers in the British Library. Between them they shape a visionary narrative, beginning with an Oxford tutorial in entomology from his son Nicholas, and detailing Hughes’s attempts, in the company of a group of fanatical Irish fishermen, to catch lough trout on imitations of its dun, or Green Drake, and spinner, or Spent. The poetry that emerged from this experience is faithful to these circumstances but also transcends them, offering a powerful vision of ecological interconnection not just to lovers of poetry but to all those concerned for the health of our rivers and lakes.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Hans Rausing Lecture - The History of Failure

22nd Annual Hans Rausing Lecture

The History of Failure: A chronicle of losers or key to success?

By Lissa Roberts, Professor of Long Term Development of Science and Technology, University of Twente

Thursday 11 May 2017, McCrum Lecture Theatre, Bene't Street, Cambridge

4pm tea and biscuits in the foyer of the McCrum. The lecture will start at 4.30pm.