British Society for Literature and Science

I spent the weekend at the 2009 conference of the British Society for Literature and Science (BSLS,) which was held this year at the University of Reading. The BSLS is a relatively new creation, begun 4-5 years ago by Dr. Alice Jenkins and Dr. Michael Whitworth. At the AGM on Sunday, re-elections were held, as current officers had served 3 years and this is the term; Alice stepped down from Chair and it was resumed by Michael. I’m very happy to say I’m stepping into Michael’s former role as Secretary of the Society. whipple-image

The BSLS is not based out of a particular University; it is because of its now quite significant membership. The annual conference this past weekend had between 80-90 delegates. The BSLS is ‘a scholarly society which promotes interdisciplinary research into the relationships of science and literature in all periods. Membership is open to anyone interested in the field, regardless of geographical location.’

I’m very pleased that, entirely separate from the Secretarial role, my proposal for their first annual grant towards conferences or other relevant activities, was accepted and I was thus the first recipient of the BSLS grant– this will go directly towards the reading series I am currently organizing for The Whipple Museum of the History of Science in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. I will elaborate on this as details become definite, but I am currently arranging two dates this summer for two talks on literature and science, to be held at The Whipple.


At the conference, I presented a paper looking at the history of cetology as represented by Herman Melville in Moby-Dick; also looking at environmental awareness by Melville, contemporary cetologists, and whalers themselves, as evidenced in their various texts. I would like to take this research further, and the conference opened up and directed my thinking on the paper in very helpful ways. 

I also had a very agreeable time chatting with a number of delegates from a great variety of backgrounds, and learned some fascinating new things about Dickens, waxwork figures, astronomy, encyclopedias, teaching science and literature, and more. I look forward to the 2010 conference.

Cambridge & Edinburgh

I’m very happy to be writing my first post on my brand new asus eee pc 1000. Yay!

(Even if it does run on linux currently, the equivalent, in my husband’s opinion, of any choice four-letter word…but he’ll be putting windows on it soon and everyone will be happy.)

New ultra-portable laptop!
New ultra-portable laptop!

I’ve been running around a bit lately, a mix of many little things; projects that I’m doing which may or may not become bigger things, and then some poetry readings; also preparing for the upcoming BSLS conference (that’s the British Society for Literature and Science)…and spring is here, and I’m heading to Virginia very, very soon! It’s an exciting time.

The Darwin’s Microscope reading I gave in Cambridge was lovely; it was held at Christ’s College, where Charles Darwin lived as a student. There was an enthusiastic crowd of about 15 people, two of whom work on the Darwin Correspondence Project, one of whom works at the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, and others, all of whom definitely knew what they were talking about. We had some really good discussion after the reading.

The reading at Cambridge was meant to be a collaboration between myself and Boris Jardine, who was going to talk on his research on Darwin’s actual microscopy, but unfortunately Boris was ill. We’re hoping to try for another reading/talk combination at the  Whipple Museum of the History of Science this summer.

Last week brought me up to the beautiful Scottish Poetry Library in the lovely capital of Edinburgh, where I read alongside Scottish poet Angela McSeveny (who read from her new book, Slaughtering Beetroot– talk about a great title!) as part of the Poetry Association of Scotland’s reading series. The turnout was fairly quiet, but the PAS and SPL include very welcoming people, and I was given a (photocopied) copy of Erasmus Darwin’s ‘The Loves of the Plants.‘ Hooray! I’ve been wanting to read that. I also paid a visit to the cozy, somewhat mysterious and deliciously tucked away ‘Writer’s Museum,‘ which I highly recommend. It rounded out my literary visit nicely.

Inpress Blog

Dear WordPress blog,

I’ve been seeing someone else. (Gasp!)

I was asked to write for Inpress Author blogs some weeks ago, and have devoted some of my time in the attempt to write ‘for writers.’ Instead of just going back and forth repeating everything, I thought I’d link to the inpress blog here. I’ll have to ask my awesome, technologically minded husband to help me put a more permanent link on the top of the WordPress blog so it won’t just be in this post.

I must say this WordPress blog is much prettier, with lots of pictures, and more about the book tour. I’m trying to make the Inpress blog content more about my rambling thoughts on writing, whether it be poetry, historical fiction, whatever. 

It is my hope that the Inpress blog will be of interest to writers, and I would love it if it generated a little bit of conversation. My latest post is asking about where people think the line is between ‘therapy writing’ versus good but emotional writing.