Michael Ruse speaking on evolution as a religion

Prof Michael Ruse from Florida State University will be coming to speak on Tuesday 26th May (week 6) at 2 in the Harborne Lecture Theatre on the theme of ‘Is Evolution a Religion? A View From Literature’. Michael is one of the leading philosophers of evolution, and the author of many influential books on the subject, including Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? and Monad to Man: The Concept of Progress in Evolutionary Biology . Please do join us if you can for his stimulating and engaging talk – all welcome.

The limits of science

Dr Berry Billingsley from the department of education will be leading the next work-in-progress session of the IRHS on perceived boundaries defining the extent or limits of science. The session will be at 1 p.m. on Monday 3rd of November in HumSS 127. This will be followed at 2 by a wider discussion of the projects being undertaken through the IRHS and projected plans for this coming year. Both parts of the meeting are open to anyone interested in cross-disciplinary work on the humanities and science at Reading.

Diachronic change in Bantu noun classes

We are holding our last work-in-progress session of term next week at 1 o’clock on Wednesday 2nd July in HumSS 175. Annemarie Verkerk from the School of Biological Sciences will be speaking on ‘Diachronic change in Bantu noun classes: an investigation using phylogenetic comparative methods’. She will present a case study of the use of phylogenetic comparative methods in linguistics by looking at Bantu noun classes. In this talk, Annemarie will be contributing to work describing diachronic change in Bantu noun classes (e.g. Katamba 2003, Maho 1999) by looking at ancestral state reconstructions and rates of change. Please do join us if you can.


Science in modernist poetry

Our next work-in-progress meeting will be on science in modernist poetry. The IRHS was invited to submit a panel to the conference of the British Association of Modernist Studies, so Stephen Thomson and John Holmes will be sharing their work in progress towards this panel on Wednesday 4th June at 1 p.m. in URS 2n10. Stephen will be talking about the place of Descartes within the thought and poetics of the French poet Paul Valéry, and John will be looking at the significance of evolutionary ideas within modernist epic poems by Ezra Pound, David Jones and Ronald Duncan. Members of the IRHS and non-members are both welcome.


George Levine speaking on science and religion

George Levine, Emeritus Professor of English at Rutgers University, will be coming to speak at Reading next Wednesday (30th April) at 2 p.m. in the Harborne Lecture Theatre on ‘Science and Religion from Herschel to Gould’. Professor Levine is one of the world’s most eminent scholars of the relationship between literature and science. His books include Darwin and the Novelists: Patterns of Science in Victorian Fiction (1988), Dying to Know: Scientific Epistemology and Narrative in Victorian England (2002),Darwin Loves You: Natural Selection and the Re-enchantment of the World (2006), Realism, Ethics and Secularism: Essays on Victorian Literature and Science (2008) and Darwin the Writer (2011), as well as several edited books on science and literature. Please do join us for his rich and stimulating talk. 

Science and the Humanities for Early Career Scholars

We will be holding a one-day interdisciplinary workshop on Friday 14th March, funded by the British Academy, to bring together scholars working in the history of science with those working on literature and science. The workshop is aimed at PhD students, postdocs, and those in the early stages of their academic careers working in History and/or Literature with an interest in science. The workshop will explore the challenges (intellectual and practical) in developing historical and literary studies of science, and ask how early career scholars can present their work most effectively. Participants will:

  • compare methodologies and assumptions across disciplines, with a view to fostering more rounded and reflexive approaches to the study of science in culture in different time periods;
  • hear from established scholars about developing successful research projects and presenting historical and literary studies of science to a wider audience;
  • receive guidance on constructing interdisciplinary research bids; and
  • benefit from the opportunity to build mutually supportive networks with other early career scholars.

Confirmed speakers include Charlotte Sleigh (Kent), Neil Messer (Winchester), Martin Willis (Westminster), Peter Bowler (Queen’s Belfast), David Stack (Reading) and John Holmes (Reading). There is no registration fee but places are limited and participants must register in advance. Early career delegates can also claim travel expenses up to £50.

Any enquiries should be directed to Professor David Stack at d.a.stack@reading.ac.uk. To download a registration form, click here: BA Early Career workshop

Depsychologizing/deneurologizing modern subjectivity?

Karin Lesnik-Oberstein will be speaking at a one-day symposium at the University of Ghent on 8th January:

What does it means to become the (neuro)psychologist of one’s own life? If something is not working in our education, in our marriage, in our work and in society in general we turn to the (neuro)psy-sciences. But is the latter’s paradigm precisely not relying on feeding neuro-psychological theories into the field of research and action? Isn’t therefore psychology not always already psychologization, and is, concomitantly, neuroscience not always already neurologisation?

The plea to depsychologize and to deneurologize modern subjective is hence rapidly uttered. If you want to know something about man, don’t study the human, don’t study psychology, study psychologization, don’t study neuroscience, study neurologization… This is however, the place where the snake might bite its own tail. The defiance is hence to make sense off, to deconstruct, to transcend, to stumble over, to reformulate, to politicize, to de-academify, to decenter, to theorize, to bring back to the praxis… the paradoxes of (neuro)-psy critique.

This one-day symposium brings together psychologists, psychoanalysts, philosophers and educationalists to reflect on the centrality of the (neuro)psy slope of modern subjectivity and its consequences for critique. The closing event of the day is the book launch of Jan De Vos’s book Psychologization and the Subject of Late Modernity (Palgrave).

Science and Storytelling Roundtable

charcotWe are launching our new research theme with a public roundtable discussion of Science and Storytelling at the University of Reading’s London Road campus (LO22, Lecture Room G01) on Wednesday 6 November at 6.30 p.m., preceded by a wine reception from 5.30 at the Museum of English Rural Life.

The speakers are the hospital doctor, medical journalist and science-writer Druin Burch; Sally Shuttleworth, authority on psychology, science and fiction in Victorian England, and Professor of English Literature at St Anne’s College, Oxford; the biographer, novelist and historian of evolution Rebecca Stott, Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia; and the climate change expert and advisor to the Department for International Development Tim Wheeler, Professor of Crop Science here at Reading.

Entry to the reception and the roundtable is free. We hope you will be able to join us to hear our speakers’ thoughts on the importance of storytelling and narrative in science, and vice versa, and to join in what promises to be a very lively and stimulating discussion.

Wilkie Collins Study Day

Wilkie Collins

The Victorian Popular Fiction Association is pleased to announce a Study Day devoted to the work of Wilkie Collins. 


Welcome (Janice Allan and Joanne Ella Parsons)


Keynote by William Baker (Northern Illinois University): “Wilkie Collins: Scholarship and Criticism Past, Present and Future”

11:15-11:30: COFFEE


Tabitha Sparks (McGill University), “Wilkie Collins’s The Law and the Lady and Feminine Reason: ‘Quite incredible, and nevertheless quite true’”

Meredith Miller (Falmouth University), “Popular Interiority and Political Address: The New Magdalen and The Law and the Lady

Tara MacDonald (University of Amsterdam), “Sympathetic Doubles in Collins’s Fiction”

12:45-2:00 LUNCH


Catherine Delafield (Independent Scholar) “‘The patience of cats,… the ferocity of tigers’: Competitive Editing and the Serialization of The Moonstone.”

Caroline Radcliffe (University of Birmingham), “The Lighthouse by Wilkie Collins: ‘situations dramatique non encore exploitees’”

Jessica Cox (Brunel University) “Women in White: Neo-Victorianism and Wilkie Collins’s Literary Descendants”


3:15-3:30 COFFEE


Anne-Marie Beller (Loughborough University), “‘I want a husband to vex, or a child to beat’: Sensation and Emotion as Redemption in Armadale

Joanne Ella Parsons (Bath Spa University), “Fosco’s Fat: Bodily Control and Transgressive Consumption in The Woman in White


Roundtable discussion on No Name Reading Project

Pete Orford (Buckingham University), Anne-Marie Beller (University of Loughborough), Hazel Mackenzie (Buckingham) and Joanne Shattock (Leicester).


If you wish to be kept informed of events organised by the Victorian Popular Fiction Association (VPFA) then a membership form for our association can be downloaded from the website. http://fass.kingston.ac.uk/research/victorian/events/


Please note that lunch will not be provided