Two Cultures or Coevolution? 
Science and Literature 1800-Present: 

Key note speakers: Prof. Joanna Verran (MMU), Prof. Sharon Ruston (Salford) & Prof. David Amigoni (Keele)
12th May 2012 at Keele University in Claus Moser Building, Rm. 12.

‘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 that 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 that 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.

The conference will be held on Saturday May 12th in the Claus Moser Building at Keele University. The conference fee is £10 for all postgraduate delegates, to include lunch and refreshments. The programme will be announced shortly.

If you have any questions about attending the conference, please contact the organisers Emilie Taylor-Brown, Jo Taylor and Katie McGettigan at:

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