Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

13th Annual Conference of the British Society of Literature and Science

This event has now finished. Please see our events website for details of upcoming events at Brookes.


Who this event is for

  • Everyone
  • Current students - undergraduate
  • Current students - postgraduate taught
  • Current students - postgraduate research
  • Academic community


John Henry Brookes Building, Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane site


The British Society for Literature and Science is an international society of academics and scholars who research in the intersections between literatures and the scientific. The 2018 conference is hosted by the Department of English and Modern Languages as part of the activities of the Medicine, Science and Technology cluster by Dr Carina Bartleet. The conference invites proposals for 20-minute papers, panels of three papers or special roundtables on any subjects within the field of science, and literatures in the broadest sense, including theatre, performance, film and television. There were some panels and many papers exploring and celebrating Frankenstein in its bicentenary year and there was a demonstration talk by Dr Eric White of Oxford Brookes on Bob Brown’s reading machine.  

Keynote speakers

  • Professor Kirsten Shepherd-Barr (University of Oxford) on the materialities of theatre in the field of science
  • Professor Alex Goody (Oxford Brookes University), Dr Frankenstein and the Sex Robots

Conference programme

Thursday 5 April
11:30-12:50 REGISTRATION John Henry Brookes Building (JHB), Headington Campus, 2nd Floor JHB207 Arrival refreshments
12:50 PM


Chakrabarti Room

Professor Martin Willis, Chair of the

BSLS and the conference team



Chakrabarti Room

Professor Kirsten Shepherd-Barr ‘There’s No Appreciation for a Man wot isn’t seen’: Theatre in the Field of Literature and Science”. Plenary introduced and chaired by Professor Martin Willis.
2-3:30pm PANELS 1 A Inside and Outside Nature JHB 204

Johanna Grabow, Bringing the Ice Core on the Page: Antarctic Science in Contemporary Literary Representations;

Aline Ferreira, ‘“Baby Pouches and Male ‘Mothers’: The Promises and Perils of Artificial Gestation”

Anna Campbell, ‘Ectogenesis and class politics in contemporary literature’

Chair: Jenni Halpin

B. Codes JHB 205

Peter Middleton, ‘Postmodernism, computers, and wartime code- breaking: The new science of information in the work of Fredric Jameson, John Ashbery, and Google’

Annalisa Volpone, " ‘And they inclos’d my infinite brain into a narrow circle’: some reflections on Blake’s neurophysiology “

Sophie Heuschling, ‘Poems as Thought Experiments: Rebecca Elson’s Astronomical Poetry’;

Chair: Michael Whitworth

C. Science as culture JHB 206

Max Saunders, ‘Science and the Human: To-day and To-morrow’ Paul Johnson, ‘What does it look like when we do science? Theatrical representations of scientific activity’

Jay A. Labinger,’ Why Are There So Few Scientists in Literature and Science?

Chair: Martin Willis

D. Mid-century Modern(ists)? Chakrabarti Room

Neil MacFarlane, ‘Too much Pecksniffery about your scientists”: Non-Consilience in CP Snow’s The Affair

Graham John Matthews,’ The Literary Landscape of the Two Cultures Debate, 1958-1969’

Chair: Carina Bartleet

3:30-4pm Coffee/tea JHB207 Afternoon refreshments  
4-5:30pm Panels 2 A. Panel: Diseases of Modern Life Chakrabarti Room

Sally Shuttleworth: the overall concept of the project;

Melissa Dickson, the use of music therapy in treating frayed nerves and various mental and physical afflictions of the nineteenth century:

Hosanna Krienke, ‘How ideas of convalescent care structured the form of the Victorian novel’;

Sarah Green, ‘Can avoiding sex ever be good for you? Victorian writing about sexual health, and late nineteenth-century Decadent literature’;

Jean-Michel Johnston, 'social acceleration' attributed to the communications revolution, and the anxieties associated with the perceived increase in the pace of modern life, as expressed in contemporary literature and the press.

B. Surveying Fields. JHB 205

Paul Hamann, ‘Pirates, Parody and Proto-Genetics: Discourses of Inheritance in A Romance of Heredity’

Aisha Nazeer, ‘Our Perfect Naturalist’: Masculinity, Domesticity, and the Natural Historian in Two Fin-de-Siècle Texts.

Zoë Lehmann Imfeld , ‘A literary scholar’s journey into space: Performing literary research in an astrophysics department’

Chair: Fani Cettl

C: Ways of Seeing. JHB 206

Cleo Hanaway-Oakley, ‘Eyestrain on the Train: Late-Victorian Reading Habits and the Science of Seeing’.

Rosalind Powell, ‘We saw, we heard, we felt’: understanding the eye in the eighteenth century’.

Rachel Murray, ‘Fifty Pairs of Eyes to See With’: Modernism’s Insect Sense

Chair: Mike Wainwright

5:30-7pm PANELS 3 A. Scientific readings: reconstructions JHB 204

Naomi     Rokotnitz,    ‘Fairytales,    Folk-Psychology,                   and                   Learning Intersubjective Competency Through Embodied Resonance’

Greg Lynall, ‘Swift among the scientists: towards a history of reading and allusion’

Jordan Kistler, ‘Imaginative Reconstruction in the Museum Chair: Cheryl Birdseye.

B: Contemporary Science Fiction and contemporary science as fiction.

JHB 205

Claudine Bollinger, ’Enhanced Empathy and Artificial Intelligence in Contemporary Science Fiction’

Sean Seeger, Storming Eden: Blade Runner 2049, Technological Prometheanism, and the Figure of the Silicon Valley Entrepreneur Catherine Charlwood, ‘Stop […] and remember’: Memory and ageing in Kazuo Ishiguro’

Chair: Kanta Dihal.

C. Canonical Numbers JHB 206

Shankar Raman, ‘Un-Mathesis: Margaret Cavendish and the Varieties of Non-Being”;

Mehdy Sedaghat Payam,’Arabian Nights by Numbers, Finding Patterns of Influence’

Dr Gregory Tate, ‘Hardy’s Measures: Poetry, Relativity, and the Metrical Universe’

Chair: Alice Jenkins

9-10:30 am PANELS 4 A. Nature’s Communication. JHB 204

Steven Denison, ‘Wordsworth and the Naturalists’

Emilie Taylor Brown, The Telegraphic Body: Digestion, Temporality, & Gastric Communication in the Nineteenth Century’

Jolene Mathieson, ‘Science and Hypermateriality in Narratives of the Deep Sea,’

Chair: Niall Sreenan

B. Panel: Soils, Seas, and Storms: Science of the Environment in the Victorian Imagination.

JHB 205

Jim Scown, “Nothing bloomed spontaneously on that soil”: Soil Science and Jane Eyre

Joan Passey, ‘”An unprecedented position; overtopped by the sea, undermined by the miners”: Subaquatic Mining in Victorian Cornwall’.

Louise Benson James , ‘Sublime Science: Storms in the Victorian Realist Novel’;

Chair: Jen Baker

C. Theatrical Visions. JHB 206

Cheryl Faraone & Steve Abbott, ‘The Affinity, or Antinomy, of Mathematics and Theatre

Jenni Halpin, '"the play fit exactly": Keeping Heart and Soul together in the Twentieth Century of Picasso at the Lapin Agile'

Julie Hudson, ‘Ecotheatre and Ecocriticism - an Ecological Perspective.

Chair: Carina Bartleet

D. Visions of Nature Roundtable, Lecture Theatre

Chakrabarti Room

Ellie Grillo, Coordinator, Visions of Nature, Oxford University Museum of Natural History

John Holmes, Professor of Victorian Literature and Culture, University of Birmingham

Janine Rogers, Professor, Mount Allison University

Paul Smith, Director, Oxford University Museum of Natural History John Barnie, Steven Matthews and Kelley Swain, poets in residence (2016), Oxford University Museum of Natural History

10:30-11am Tea/Coffee    
11-12 noon SHORT PANELS 5 A. Literature as experimental science. JHB 204

Gül Tekay Baysan,

Gavin Budge, 'Activity, Ennui and Medicine in the Writing of Maria Edgeworth and Charlotte M Yonge for Children and Young Adults'.

Chair: Yolanda Eraso

B Transcultural Science and Ondaatje. JHB 205

Anna Auguscik, ‘Science Novels in Transcultural Contexts: Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost and Manu Joseph’s Serious Men;

Anton Kirchhofer, ‘Scientist Characters in Transcultural Contexts: Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost’

Chair: Janine Rogers

C: Austen’s Plants. JHB 206

Rebecca Spear, ‘“[H]er Bower alone could restore her to herself”: Medicinal Botany and the Female Healer in Jane Austen’s “Kitty, or the Bower”’.

Barri Gold, ‘Austen’s Emergent Ecologies’. Chair: Greg Lynall

12noon-1pm BSLS AGM Chakrabarti Room  
1-1:45pm LUNCH Terrace Restaurant  
1:45-3:15 PANELS 6 A Sciences and Fictions – interstices. JHB 204

Richard Brown, ‘Physics and Pataphysics in J.G. Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition (1970/1990)’

Sonia Front, “There’s More Than One of Everything” – Parallel Universes in Fringe’

Jess Roberts, “We were neither what we had been nor what we would become:” The Biologist and The Monstrous Land in Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation.

Chair: Folkert Degenring

B Modernist Science. JHB 205

Catriona Livingstone, ‘“Embryo Lives”: Virginia Woolf and Recapitulation Theory’

Michael H Whitworth, ‘Scientific Concepts and Diction in W. H. Auden’s Poetry’

Anirudh Sridhar, ‘”Doctrinal Point”: A Reading’ Chair: Peter Middleton.

C. Head spaces: Performing Science.

JHB 206

Meredith A. Conti ,“What a noble mind is here o’erthrown!”: Gendering Victorian Madness at London’s Lyceum Theatre’

Sarah Mayo."Quacking Astrology on Stage: Mountebanks and Starry Satire in Seventeenth-Century England"

Leah Sidi, ‘Between reality and hallucination: Sarah Kane and the Bayesian brain.’

Chair: Gavin Budge

D. Panel: Frankenstein in science, science in Frankenstein Chakrabarti Room

Jen Baker, ‘The Metamorphoses of Frankenstein: Illustrated and Movable Anatomy, Science Education, and the Gothic Imagination’ Anahita Rouyan, ‘“Thwarting Nature with Frankensteinian Science”: Early Public Entanglements of Frankenstein's Monster with Genetic Experimentation in the United States’


Chair Emily Alder

3:20-4:20 SHORT PANELS 7 A. Shakespeare’s Brains. JB 204

Nicholas Arnold, “Is This A Dagger…?” - apparitions and the brain in Shakespeare

Lianne Habinek, ‘The written troubles of Macbeth's brain’ Chair: Meredith Conti

B Monsters and Demons. JHB 205

David        Barnes,’       ‘Julian        Huxley       at                   Bird                City: Edward McIllhenny, Racism, and Biology in Postbellum Louisiana’

Emily Alder, ‘The brain of a devil’: Arthur Machen’s reconstructed demons;

Chair: Ros Powell

C: Animism. JHB 206

Fani Cettl, “I gazed with a kind of wonder”: Frankenstein’s creature’s animism’;

Gemma Curto, ‘Ecological animism’ and regeneration: becoming with others in Danielewski’s Only Revolutions

Chair: Josie Gill

4:20-4:45 Tea/Coffee JHB 207  
4: 45-6:15 PANELS 8

A. Non-human and Inhuman Narratives

JHB 204

Sthira Bhattacharya, “How can inert atoms with neither eyes nor ears form bonds?”: Pedagogy of science through “conversations” in Bamabodhini Patrika and the making of the ‘reasonable’ modern Bengali woman, ca 1865-1870.

Saskia McCracken, ‘Revolution, Evolution, and the Darwinian Politics of Virginia Woolf’s ‘creature Dictator’

Kanta Dihal, ‘Fictional Artificial Intelligence Uprisings, 1920-present ’ Chair: Andrew Rowcroft

B. Panel: Of buzzing beetles and the creepy cross-curricular: a round-table on the possibilities & practicalities of literature and science in public engagement

JHB 205

Chair: Prof John Holmes (University of Birmingham) Panelists

-  Dr Christopher Jeffs (University of Oxford), research scientist at the Department of Zoology,

-  Franziska Kohlt (University of Oxford), doctoral candidate in English Literature

-  Dr Luke Tilley (Royal Entomological Society), Deputy CEO and Director of Outreach

-  Dr Katherine Ford, Science Museum London/ University of Sheffield Libraries Engagement

-  Maya Leonard, author of ‘Beetle Boy’ trilogy and ‘Beetle Collectors Handbook’

C Twentieth Century Physics JHB 206

Daniel Cordle Trinity: Fictions of the First Atomic Moment;

Rachel Crossland,’ Scientific, Poetic and Popular Metaphors for Dark Matter: Picturing the Unobservable’

Sarah Daw, ‘Physics, Philosophy and Ecology in Charles Olson's Ecopoetics’

Chair: Michael Whitworth



Chakrabarti Room

Professor Alex Goody, Oxford Brookes University

‘Dr. Frankenstein and the Sex Robots’

Plenary introduced and chaired by Professor Alice Jenkins.

7:20pm-10pm Conference Dinner   Terrace Restaurant  

Saturday 7 April

Arrival coffee/tea from 8.30am in JHB 207

9-10:30 PANELS 9 A. Fictions and scientific facts JHB 204

Alice Jenkins, ‘The four corners of the world: getting it wrong in Victorian poetry

Max Chapnick, "Magnetic Fields in Bleak House and Moby-Dick”

Chair: Carina Bartleet

B Unfit Sciences: JHB 205

Josie Gill, ‘‘The sick swollen heart of this land’: Pharmacogenomics, Racial Medicine and Colson Whitehead’s Apex Hides the Hurt ‘ Mark Taylor, ‘Evolution and Degeneration in The Popular Science of

H.G. Wells and the Science Fiction of Doris Lessing’ Chair: Julie Hudson

C. Written in the landscape: fossils and speculative agricultures

JHB 206

Richard Fallon, The Thing You Can't Quite See': Arthur Conan Doyle's

The Lost World and the New Romance of Palaeontology

Niall Sreenan, ‘An Encounter with the Arche-fossil: Deep Historicity in the work of Thomas Hardy’

Folkert Degenring, ‘Agricultural Futures: Agriculture, Science and Speculative Literature’.

Chair: Steve Denison

10:30-11am DEMONSTRATIONDr Eric White JHB 204 The curious tale of the 1930’s e-Reader: Bob Brown’s Reading Machine
11-11:30 Tea/CoffeeJHB 207Bob Brown’s Reading Machine demonstration in JHB 204
11:30-1pm PANELS 10 A. Unnatural Sciences JHB 204

Mary Fairclough, ‘Frankenstein and Chemistry’

Helena Ifill, ‘”The last example […] occurred in my own person”: Scientific and Medical Authority in Victorian “Supernatural” Fiction and Non-Fiction’

Chair: Ros Powell.

B. Original Dreams JHB 205

Martin Willis, ‘Good Sleeping: Victorian and Contemporary Sleep Science in Utopia’

Caroline Sumpter , ‘The Science of Sympathy: Utopia, Eugenics and Feminism at the Fin de Siecle

Paolo Gervasi, ‘Out of the Comfort Zone: Dan Brown’s Origin as a standpoint on literature and science’;

Chair: Franziska Kohlt.

C. Mid-century ‘medicines’ JHB 206

Peter Fifield, ‘Dorothy Richardson and The Dental Record’ Agnes Arnold -Forster, ‘Racing Pulses: Surgical Knowledge and Practice in Mid-Century Mills & Boon Novels

Felicity Powell, 'I am the dreamer / and the Dreamed': The Quantum Tricksterisms of Allen Ginsberg;

Chair: Jenni Halpin


Venue: Lecture Theatre, Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Book separately

2 Time: 2.30 –



To mark the 35th anniversary of the publication of Professor Dame Gillian Beer’s ground-breaking study of the relations between science and literature, the British Society for Literature and Science is sponsoring an afternoon’s discussion with Gillian Beer, the BSLS President, at the Natural History Museum

in Oxford on Saturday April 7th.


2.30-3.15: Gillian Beer interviewed by John Holmes 3.15-3.25: Short break

3.25-4.25: Roundtable on Literature and Biology chaired by Daniel Brown with Sally Shuttleworth, David Amigoni and Lara Choksey. 4.25-4.30: Concluding Comments from Martin Willis (BSLS Chair)