Monday, 14 May 2012

Thanks to everyone!

Delegate packs wait for collection
 On Saturday May 12th 2012, Keele University hosted the interdisciplinary conference Two Cultures or Co-Evolution? Science and Literature 1800-Present. The conference, which took its title from C. P. Snow’s influential Rede lecture of 1959, invited delegates from across the country to interrogate the relationship between these ‘two cultures’, including a roundtable session to encourage discussion on the state of that relationship in higher education today.

The day was opened with keynote addresses from Professor David Amigoni (Keele University) and Professor Sharon Ruston (University of Salford). Professor Amigoni’s talk focussed on Julian Huxley’s scientific poetry, whilst Professor Ruston discussed the implications of natural history theory on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Professor Joanna Verran, a world-renowned microbiologist from Manchester Metropolitan University, gave the afternoon keynote, sharing her personal experiences in engaging with colleagues, students and ideas across the subject divide.

Delegates arrive
The conference welcomed delegates from the universities of Keele, Oxford, Durham, Leeds, London and Canterbury Christ Church from both science and humanities backgrounds, allowing the discussion to explore all aspects of the papers. The first panel, entitled ‘What price progress? Conflicts of Science and Society in the Nineteenth Century’, explored the relationship between the fast-moving scientific discoveries and society of the Victorian period. The second, ‘Reading Science, Writing Literature: Creating Interdisciplinary Texts’, examined the ways in which literature has utilised scientific language or knowledge to frame the ideas of the text. The final panel, ‘Bodies Politic: Fictions of Science, War and Nationhood’, interrogated international ideas and uses of science in literature throughout the twentieth century. All papers were very warmly received and demonstrated the very real desire to bridge this long-established cultural divide.

The conference organisers, Katie McGettigan, Emilie Taylor-Brown and Jo Taylor (all from the Research Institute for Humanities, Keele University) were very grateful for the funding and support from Keele’s Bridging the Gap initiative, which enabled the conference to take place. A follow-up event will be hosted on Friday 25th May 2012 when Jonathan Lamb, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the humanities at Vanderbilt University, will give a talk entitled ‘Scurvy and Nostalgia’. The event will take place in the Claus Moser Research Centre (CM0.12) at 1pm.

Katie McGettigan introduces the morning keynotes, Prof. David Amigoni and Prof. Sharon Ruston

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

[Change of Date] Scurvy & Nostalgia.

[UPDATE] The date for Jonathan Lamb's talk on Scurvy & Nostalgia will now take place on Friday 25th May 2012 in the Claus Moser Building CM0.12 at Keele University

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Scurvy&Nostalgia: Jonathan Lamb to speak at Keele

Follow up event: 25th May 2012

Jonathan Lamb, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanitites at Vanderbilt University is to give an exciting talk on Scurvy and Nostalgia at Keele University on 25th May 2012.

The event is conceptualised as a follow up event to stem from the discussions prompted by the Two Cultures conference held on the 12th May 2012. We strongly encourage all delegates and participants of that conference to attend this event for further discussions and to witness the interdisciplinary approach at work!

Professor Lamb is collaborating with James May and Fiona Harrison, neurologists at Vanderbilt Medical School, who have been running a series of experiments on scurbotic mice.

In addition we warmly welcome all interested in the science and literature crossover, in Eighteenth Century studies, Medical History or Scurbotic Mice!

See below abstract:

'Nostalgia was identified as a disease by the Swiss physician Johannes
Hofer in the 17th century, and cited as a medical condition by Joseph Banks when he suffered from it on Cook's first voyage.  Thomas Trotter was the first formally to link it to another disease, scurvy, when he defined the labile emotional condition of its victims as 'scorbutic nostalgia'. Trotter went further than that, he associated nostalgia with an array of social, military and cultural developments (stock market speculation, fixed incomes, naval blockades and novel-reading) which induced a state of mind that was cognate with other forms of imaginative indulgence such as calenture (maritime fever), reverie, second-sight, and the suspension of disbelief typical of naive novel-readers. Trotter's fellow-student of scurvy, Thomas Beddoes, introduced an artificial version of this state of mind at the Pneumatic Institute by means of nitrous oxide, a gas that Samuel Mitchill, an American chemist, had named septon,and identified as the cause of all contagious diseases, among which he numbered scurvy.  Taking scurvy and nitrous oxide together as joint (or atleast parallel) causes of a pathological state of imagination that might loosely be termed nostalgia, I want to see if it is possible to tighten the definition of that ecstatic state of nervous excitement, particularly with regard to altered perceptions of time and space.'

The event is free to all and to be held in the Claus Moser Building at 1pm CM0.12

Submission Deadline Now Closed.

The submission deadline is now closed and we are reviewing the abstracts. We hope to get back to delegates within the next 2 weeks.

- Conference Organisers

Monday, 23 January 2012

 Science and Literature 1800-Present: Two Cultures or Co-evolution? 

Postgraduate conference at Keele University, 12th May 2012

Key note speakers: Prof. Joanna Verran (MMU), Prof. Sharon Ruston (Salford) & Prof. David Amigoni (Keele)

‘As in the changed impression on the wax, we read a change in the seal; so in the integration of advancing Language, Science, and Art, we see reflected certain integrations of advancing human structure, individual and social.’
- Herbert Spenser First Principles (1862)

‘The purpose of Science and Art is one: to render experience intelligible’
- Leslie A White The Science of Culture (1949)

‘Literary intellectuals at one pole - at the other scientists…Between the two a gulf of mutual incomprehension…’        
          - C. P. Snow The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (1959)

The long nineteenth century saw the cultural foundation for a dialogue between the Sciences and the Arts which continues to this day. Despite the lacuna that is traditionally posited between these two subjects, from the Romantic beginning of the nineteenth century and throughout the Victorian period, artists, writers and scientists alike were conscious of the confluences between their disciplines. The Victorian fashion for reading cutting-edge scientific articles alongside, for example, philosophical poetry or serialized novels in magazines and journals was preceded by / inherited from the Romantic tendency to blur the boundaries between scientific and artistic study, and set a precedent for the mutual evaluation of these two fields. Indeed, the periodical itself was a product of the increasing impact of science and technology on literary culture; these developments shaped the material texts and the practices of production and reception.
       In addition, scientists often employed literary tropes and epigraphs to reiterate their messages; indeed scientific theories could frequently trace their origins back to literature (Herbert Spencer, for example, drew on both Coleridge and Goethe to formulate his theory of evolution). The advancement of science throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries lead to an increased concern with social anxieties about science. This manifested itself as a penchant for science fiction novels which purported to explore the possibilities that science was yet to realize.
      This legacy can be traced well into the twentieth century. The exploitation of science and technology in the world wars revived a literary preoccupation with science represented in post-war fiction, such as Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series (1942-1950), Nevil Shute’s On the Beach (1957), or Harlan Ellison’s short story I have no mouth and I must scream (1967). Today it emerges in phrases like the portmanteau ‘Franken-foods’, which borrows Mary Shelley’s eponymous 19th century protagonist to highlight the fears of contemporary scientific applications. This conference will explore those intimate relationships between the two cultures of science and literature, and will examine the ways in which anxieties of the long nineteenth century have continued to express themselves in the present day.

Call for papers – applicants might consider, but are not limited to, the following areas: 
- Darwinism and social anxiety 
- Medical pandemics in literature
- The dissemination of science (including the impact of technological innovation on the material text)
- Representations of physical and mental illness
- Access to science for women and children
- Fears of technological advancement (e.g. Ludditism)
- Reflections on the science of warfare
- Apocalyptic visions
- Critical approaches to the two cultures (including modern opposition between arts and sciences)
- Popular Science – the third culture

We welcome proposals of 200-300 words for 15 minute presentations. Please send proposals and any queries to Emilie Taylor-Brown, Jo Taylor and Katie McGettigan at: The deadline for proposals is 31st March 2012.