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.
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.