Literature and Science, Oxford

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

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Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century: Seminars in Hilary Term 2016

The  programme for Hilary Term 2016 is now announced with two seminars taking place at St Anne’s College.

Drinks will be served after each seminar and all are welcome.

Wednesday 3 February 2016 (Week 3)

Dr Sam Alberti, Director of Museums and Archives, Royal College of Surgeons of England 

Sam's image

Casting no doubt: Plaster Heads in Victorian/Edwardian Science and Medicine

Science and medicine rely on extra-textual objects. From within the array of instruments, models, specimens and other material culture this paper will focus on a specific medium (plaster of Paris casts) and a specific anatomy (the human head). Examples from medicine, anthropology and anatomy will illustrate the particularities of the process of casting, the relationships between interior and exterior, between life and death. Museum stores to this day hold thousands of these widely reproduced and circulated casts, their quantity bewildering, their status ambiguous. Unpacking their significance as clinical and scientific records in the decades around 1900 is revealing.

5.30 – 7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

Wednesday 17 February 2016 (Week 5)

Graeme Gooday, Professor of History of Science and Technology, University of Leeds

V0008879 Structure of the outer and inner ear. Coloured stipple Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images Structure of the outer and inner ear. Coloured stipple after: James. StewartPublished: 1800 Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Medical and technological limits: exploiting, evaluating and alleviating adult hearing loss in Britain up to the Great War.

While early 19th century otologists claimed they could ‘cure’ most categories of deafness, by the early twentieth century such boasts were more characteristic of opportunist mail order advertisers. Victorian middle class people who experienced significant auditory loss in adulthood could thus not expect much assistance from physicians in attempting to sustain life among the hearing. Some followed Harriet Martineau’s example and declared their ‘deafness’ publicly by sporting a hearing trumpet to aid conversation. The more self-conscious opted for hearing assistance discreetly disguised in, for example, a ladies’ bonnet or a gentleman’s top hat. Those untroubled by myopia could instead learn lip-reading, or occasionally hand signing. These purported ‘solutions’ to hearing loss were much debated alongside many other aspects of deafness in the Deaf Chronicle founded in 1889, and in its successor periodicals.

5.30 – 7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

For any queries, please get in touch with Alyson Slade,

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Oxford Awarded £4m in Grants for New Research in Literature and Science

Professor Sally Shuttleworth has been awarded two major research grants, totalling £4m, in the interdisciplinary field of science and culture.   The first, an Advanced Investigator grant from the European Research Council, is for Diseases of Modern Life: Nineteenth-Century Perspectives’.    This research will explore the medical, literary and cultural responses in the Victorian age to the perceived problems of stress and overwork, anticipating many of the preoccupations of our own era.   The second is a large collaborative grant from the AHRC on Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science in the 19th and 21st Centuries’, with co-investigators Dr Gowan Dawson of the University of Leicester, and Dr Chris Lintott in Oxford’s Astrophysics Department (and founder of the large internet based citizen science project, Zooniverse) .    The project brings together historical and literary research in the nineteenth century with contemporary scientific practice, looking at the ways in which patterns of popular communication and engagement in nineteenth-century science can offer models for current practice.  Three major scientific institutions are partners in the project: the Natural History Museum, London; the Royal Society; and the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons.