Children’s Literature and Science Seminar at Edinburgh

This phenomenal-looking seminar on Children’s Literature and Science, and the many facets of the field, will be taking place this Friday at Edinburgh Napier University. I will be giving my first paper on my new research project on children’s literature and its role in environmentalism. If you’d like to attend please contact em.alder@napier.ac.uk – and definitely watch this space for more on this field from Edinburgh in the future!

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IRSCL Panel ‘The Silence of Nature: Children’s Literature and Science’

The biannual IRSCL conference “Silence and Silencing in Children’s Literature” will take place at the University of Stockholm in August, and I am pleased that our panel on Children’s Literature and Science has just been accepted! It will cover ground from Morris to Moomins – and contain the following papers:

– Franziska Kohlt “Conversations with beetles: The struggle against Nature’s Silence in Victorian and contemporary CliFi for children
– Jenny Willner “Cell biology and Melancholy in the Moomin Valley: Homsan, Haeckel and the Life of Protozoa”
– Vera Kaulbarsch “Silence, Ghosts and Nature in Walter Benjamin’s Texts on Childhood”

Hope to see some of you there!

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‘Alice in Wonderland & Science’ video for University of Oxford campaign

In August I was extremely excited to be invited to shoot a little image film about my work on Victorian fantasy literature and science at Christ Church, Oxford. Christ Church kindly let me use some of Lewis Carroll’s own manuscript materials from their collection (have a look at some of their digitised items here) – including his photographs, proofs, sketches, letters, and his dedicated presentation copy of a first edition copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland! I also speak about Victorian children’s literature’s ties to Victorian Science Communication & Education, about Victorian Lunatic Asylums – and Charles Dickens’s visit to one – and how all of that can change how we think about Fantasy and Science Fiction Literature in general – I hope you like it!  

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Railways, biodiversity, agricultural history and…Through the Looking-Glass?

On the 25th of November I will be giving a talk at the Abingdon Arms, Beckley, just outside Oxford.

The occasion is not only that the award-winning Pub overlooks Otmoor, the nature reserve which some believe may have inspired Lewis Carroll’s chessboard landscape in Through the Looking-Glass (I will investigate this claim), but also the planned resurrection of the Oxford-Cambridge Expressway through this area of scientific interest, which is noted especially for its biodiversity by the RSPB.

Oxford is well-known to have inspired Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), but the extensive influence of the Oxfordshire countryside on Through The Looking-Glass (1871) is less frequently discussed. My talk will therefore not only uncover some of these inspirations, from Oxford’s architecture to Oxfordshire’s agricultural history, but also illuminate how Lewis Carroll’s wider interest in nature, science and industry – and thus also the railways – shaped Through the Looking-Glass, and explore how this can help us approach and rethink contemporary challenges posed to the balance between nature and the necessities of modern life. (Announcements for the talk have appeared also here and here)

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The Looking-Glass countryside, John Tenniel

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‘Frankenstein and Beyond’ at the Birmingham Literature Festival

On the occasion of the bicentenary of Frankenstein I will be discussing our fascination with Gothic tales at the Birmingham Literature Festival together with contemporary Gothic and Horror writers Andrew Michael Hurley (The Loney and Devil’s Day) and Jess Kidd (The Hoarder) who will also discuss and read from their latest books. The session will be chaired by Dr Serena Trowbridge.

The event has now sold out, but watch the facebook event page for further updates.

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BBC Radio 4 ‘In Our Time’ on Automata

I will be speaking about automata in the history of science and psychology, literature and popular culture alongside Simon Schaffer and Elly Truitt on BBC4’s ‘In Our Time’ program with Melvyn Bragg on 20 Septemeber 2018. The broadcast will be available afterwards on iPlayer. If you haven’t seen Compton Verney’s Marvellous Mechanical Museum yet, you should definitely go – and get the wonderful book accompanying the exhibition.

 

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The Marvellous Mechanical Museum – Talk at Compton Verney Exhibition

EDIT: This talk is now happening on Wednesday, 26th September 2018, 2:30-3:30pm!

I’m very excited to be giving a talk on ‘Automata in Literature and Culture’, fathoming the literary and psychological depths of our fascination with automata through history at  The Marvellous Mechanical Museum exhibition, for which I acted as a consultant, at Compton VerneyLancelot ‘Capability’ Brown‘s former abode. With Greek Mythology, Frankenstein, Rowland Emmet (and possibly even LEGO), there’s definitely going to be something for everybody! Tickets include entry to the exhibition (which you must see!).

 

PS: Don’t miss out on the gorgeous book accompanying the exhibition for which I wrote an essay!

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