Literature and Science, Oxford

A news and information hub for studies in literature and science at Oxford

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Call for Papers: Medicine and Modernity in the Long Nineteenth Century, 10-11 September 2016 at St Anne’s College


Medicine and Modernity in the Long Nineteenth Century

St Anne’s College, Oxford

10th – 11th September 2016




In our current ‘Information Age’ we suffer as never before, it is claimed, from the stresses of an overload of information, and the speed of global networks. The Victorians diagnosed similar problems in the nineteenth century. The medic James Crichton Browne spoke in 1860 of the ‘velocity of thought and action’ now required, and of the stresses imposed on the brain forced to process in a month more information ‘than was required of our grandfathers in the course of a lifetime’. Through this two day interdisciplinary conference, hosted by the ERC funded Diseases of Modern Life project based at Oxford, we will explore the phenomena of stress and overload, and other disorders associated with the problems of modernity in the long nineteenth century, as expressed in the literature, science, and medicine of the period. We seek to return to the holistic, integrative vision of the Victorians as it was expressed in the science and literature of the period, exploring the connections drawn between physiological, psychological and social health, or disease, and offering new ways of contextualising the problems of modernity facing us in the twenty-first century. We are particularly interested in comparative perspectives on these issues from international viewpoints.


Topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Representations of ‘modern’ disorders and neuroses in literature and the medical press
  • Defining modernity and its problems in the nineteenth century
  • Medical and psychiatric constructions of modern life
  • Social and mental health and welfare
  • Diseases from pollution and changing nineteenth-century environments
  • Diseases from worry, overwork, and mental or physical strain
  • Diseases from excess, self-abuse, stimulants, and narcotics
  • The role of machinery and technology in causing or curing disease
  • Changing relationships between doctors and patients
  • Emerging medical specialisms
  • Global Modernities


We welcome proposals from researchers across a range of disciplines and stages of career. We plan to publish a selection of papers from the event in the form of an edited volume. Please send proposals of no more than 300 words accompanied by a short bio, to by Friday, 4th December 2015.


Amelia Bonea, Melissa Dickson, Jennifer Wallis, Sally Shuttleworth


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Literature and Medicine Seminars Michaelmas 2015

1st week (15th October) Chekhov and Psychiatry – Ward no 6 and The Black Monk
(Femi Oyebode, University of Birmingham)
Poet, psychiatrist and academic, Femi Oyebode talks about two Chekhov short stories from his perspective as a psychiatrist

5th week (12th of November) Probably Nothing
(Matilda Tristram)
Matilda Tristram is an illustrator of children’s books and writer of BBC TV series Here she talks about her blog and graphic novel, Probably Nothing – a witty and moving diary of her experience of being diagnosed with colon cancer when she was 4 months pregnant.

7th week (26 November) Anatomy Tables
(Emma Shepley, Curator, Royal College of Physicians)
Emma Shepley discusses the history and significance of the RCP’s unique collection of Renaissance anatomy tables.
(What is an anatomy table? Not what you think – come and find out.)

All welcome: graduates, undergraduates, humanities and medical researchers, clinicians, interested others

Convenors: Peter Friend (Green Templeton College); Laurie Maguire (Magdalen College)

— A programme and more information can be found on the events page of Green Templeton College

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Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century Seminars in Michaelmas Term 2015

The programme for Michaelmas Term 2015 is now announced with three seminars taking place at St Anne’s College. Drinks will be served after each seminar and all are welcome.

Wednesday 28 October 201 5 (Week 3): Dr Madeleine Wood, Queen Mary University of London
“A ‘heart hard as a nether millstone’: The relational dynamics of Victorian ‘addiction’”
5.30 – 7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

Wednesday 11 November 201 5 (Week 5): Dr Claire Jones, King’s College London
“Septic Subjects: Infection and Occupational Risk in British Hospitals, 1870-1970”
5.30 – 7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

Wednesday 25 November 201 5 (Week 7) Professor Karen Sayer, Leeds Trinity University
“Radical Requiems: the return of the past in British agriculture, 1850-1950”
5.30 – 7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

– More information is available on the Diseases of Modern Life events page

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Call for Papers for Ada Lovelace Bicentenary Postgraduate Workshop

The Call for Papers for a Postgraduate Workshop on Ada Lovelace is now open, which will be taking place on the 8th of December 2015 as part of the Bicentenary Celebrations of the computing pioneer at The University of Oxford.

Texts and Contexts: The Cultural Legacies of Ada Lovelace

“That brain of mine is more than merely mortal; as time will show.”

A workshop for graduate students and early career researchers

Tuesday 8th December 2015

Mathematics Institute and St Anne’s College, Oxford

The mathematician Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), daughter of poet Lord Byron, is celebrated as a pioneer of computer science. The notes she added to her translation of Luigi Menabrea’s paper on Charles Babbage’s analytical engine (1843) are considered to contain a prototype computer program. During her short life, Lovelace not only contributed original ideas to the plans for this early computer; she also imagined wider possibilities for the engine, such as its application to music, and meditated on its limitations. Lovelace leaves a legacy not just as a computer scientist, but also as a muse for literary writers, a model to help us understand the role of women in science in the nineteenth century, and an inspiration for neo-Victorian and steampunk traditions.

As part of the University of Oxford’s celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of Lovelace’s birth, this one-day workshop will bring together graduates and early career researchers to discuss the varied cultural legacies of this extraordinary mathematician. The day will feature an expert panel including graphic novelist Sydney Padua and biographer Richard Holmes.

The day will conclude with a reception and buffet when there will be opportunities to meet with speakers from the Ada Lovelace 200 Symposium, which will also take place in the Mathematics Institute on the following two days (9th-10th December). Researchers from all disciplines are invited to submit proposals for papers on the influences of Lovelace’s work, on topics including, but not limited to, literature, history, mathematics, music, visual art, and computer science. This might include:

  • Lovelace’s place in the study of the history of science.
  • Lovelace and women in science in the nineteenth century
  • Early nineteenth-century scientific networks, including Lovelace’s relationship with such individuals as Charles Babbage and Mary Somerville.
  • Lovelace and discussions about the role of the imagination in scientific practice in the nineteenth century.
  • Lovelace as translator and commentator.
  • Mathematics and music, and the musical possibilities Lovelace envisaged for Babbage’s engine.
  • Lovelace’s own textual legacies, such as her correspondence, childhood exercises and mathematical notes held in the Bodleian.
  • Lovelace’s technological legacies, from her seminal work on Babbage’s Analytical Engine to her impact on computer programming today.
  • Lovelace’s role in the steampunk tradition, from Gibson and Sterling’s The Difference Engine to Sydney Padua’s The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, and neo-Victorian fashion.
  • Efforts and activities to commemorate and memorialise Lovelace, from the recent Google Doodle to the annual Ada Lovelace Day.

Proposals, not exceeding 250 words, for 15-minute papers should be submitted to by 5pm, Friday 28th August 2015. Those who are accepted to speak at this graduate workshop will also be offered free registration for the Ada Lovelace 200 Symposium taking place on the following two days.

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Literature and Science Events This Week

27 May, 5.30-7PM

Matthew Paskins (University of Leeds & The Open University), ‘For the Sake of a Dibbling Stick: the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, and inventive communities, 1800-1830′. Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century. Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College.

30 May, 9AM-6PM

Working with Nineteenth-Century Medical and Health Periodicals – all-day workshop. Seminar room 8, Ruth Deech Building, St Anne’s College. See here for more details.

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Literature and Science Events this Week

Torch Book at lunchtime series: Theatre and Evolution in Science: From Ibsen to Beckett by Kirsten Shepherd-Barr, With Michael Billington (Guardian), Morten Kringlebach (Associate Professor and Senior Research Fellow, Department of Psychiatry, University of Oxford), Laura Marcus (Goldsmiths’ Professor of English Literature). Seminar Room, Radcliffe Humanities, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Road, Oxford.

21 May, 6.30-8PM.

‘People-powered science: citizen science in the 19th and 21st centuries’. Speakers: Professor Sally Shuttleworth, Professor Chris Lintott, Dr Berris Charnley. An informal discussion-based event on Constructing Scientific Communities. Learn how 19th-century models are offering ways of harnessing this huge popular interest, and how these models are helping to advance science. At the Royal Society, London. See:

22 May, 2PM.
Dr John Holmes (Reading), ‘Science in Modernist Epic Poetry.’ Literature and Science Research Seminar. English faculty, Seminar Room A.