I am a researcher in Science Communication, the History of Science & Literature, with a background in Communication and Media Science and Comparative Literature.

My doctoral thesis on Dreams and Visions in Victorian Psychology  Fantastic Literature established the latter as primary medium to digest and communicate new scientific knowledge, its societal and epistemological implications. Moving on from Oxford, I joined the Department of Sociology at the University of York to work on Science and Narratives, and scrutinized Covid-19 narratives, especially those constructing it as war and conflict, and how they shaped public understandings and behaviours (read more here and here).

I have taught for universities in the US, UK and Germany, and several Oxford Colleges, specialising in 19th & 20th century literature, Literature, Science and Religion, Children’s and Fantastic Literature, Science Fiction and Visual Culture. Besides my academic work, I am an active science communicator, working with national and interantional media, as well as with museums and schools.  I have been involved in a broad variety of school outreach projects, from media literacy, AI, climate change, to journalism, and English Literature.

(And just in case you’re anxious, it’s pronounced [fʁan.ˈʦɪs.ka] – or, Fran!)

My research:

My doctoral thesis explored the emergence of Victorian psychology and fantastic literature as sister phenomena through the work of the author-scientists George MacDonald, Lewis Carroll, Charles Kingsley and H.G. Wells and their literary portrayal of visions experienced in dream, illness and near death. Considering these works in the wider framework of the Victorian history of science, I establish fantastic literature as a primary medium for ‘making visible’ epistemological debates of the nature of consciousness, and the nature of the soul, early ideas of the subconscious and dream theory to evolutionary psychology, thus challenging the perception of Fantasy as an escapist genre.

My research interests lie principally in the areas of Science Communication, History of Science, and Literature, Narrative and Science, with specialisms in the long nineteenth century, in British, and some Continental European cultures. I am also interested in post-modernist multimedial and visual cultures. More specifically, my work covers the following areas:

  • Storytelling & Narratives in Science (including metaphor& analogy), impact on belief-formation and behaviour change – historically and in the present
  • Fantastic Literature, its tropes and structures, Science Fiction and Children’s Literature
  • Dreams and Visions, Spectres and Hallucinations
  • Narratives of Illness, Death, Near-death, Dying, Suicide
  • The History of Science, Medicine, Psychology and Psychiatry
  • The History of Technology, Automata, Automation, AI and Society
  • Ecocriticism, Environmental History, Cli-Fi, Ecology in Art & Design

I have written on the work of the following authors and personalities (amongst others):

  • Lewis Carroll, H. G. Wells, George MacDonald, Charles Kingsley
  • Robert Wilfred Skeffington Lutwidge, Hugh Welch Diamond
  • Gilbert & Sullivan, John Tenniel, Linley Sambourne
  • E.T.A Hoffmann, Novalis, J.W. von Goethe and Erich Kästner
  • William Morris, William de Morgan, John Ruskin, Octavia Hill

My research interests are versatile, and interested in public perceptions of science and science communication. I have thus analysed the narrative tropes of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially warfare narratives, and examined the ethics of such rhetoric in the setting of pandemics drawing comparisons to the rhetoric of the Victorian cholera crisis in Britain, especially that employed by Christian ministers. I am an expert on Lewis Carroll, and have published articles on various aspects of the work of Lewis Carroll, including ‘The stupidest Tea-Party in all my life: Lewis Carroll and Victorian Psychiatry’, the first in-depth exploration of the origin of Lewis Carroll’s interest in the science and practice of insanity, and its portrayal in fiction. A forthcoming article, ‘Poeta Fit, Non Nascitur’, explores the author’s preoccupation with Victorian performance science, photography, psychiatric theory, comedic catharsis – and the theological ends to which he sought to apply it in his work. My article ‘From Scotland to Utopia (via Hammersmith): William Morris, George MacDonald and the Utopian ecological aesthetic’ multifaceted Victorian preoccupations with ecology has appeared in the Journal for Scottish Thought.

I written shorter pieces on the broader interactions of literature, science and culture: a blog on the implications of what “Following the Science” really means, an article on Fairies and Dreaming appeared on Harvard University’s blog, another piece on Victorian Insect-mania was commissioned by the Royal Entomological Society and Alice in Cyberspace for The Conversation. An article on Dickens, Time-Travel and Near-Death-Experiences, entitled ‘Back to the Future: The Time Traveller’s Traumatic Jetlag in A Christmas Carol“, appeared in Dickens on the Move – Between Cultures and Continents.

My Public Engagement:

darwin and i

Charles D. and I at the Natural History Museum, London

I am (history of) science communicator in research and practice and have appeared on international broadcast, including BBC4’s In Our Time, CBC Radio’s Ideas, ARTE’s Invitation au Voyage/Stadt Land Kunst or TRT’s Showcase, the Birmingham Literature Festival, Bristol Technology Festival and COP26. Several of my shorter pieces and journalistic features have appeared in Newspapers such as the Oxford Mail,  The Conversation, and Liasons – Magazin für den Kulturaustausch.

I have also acted as curator and consultant for  award-winning exhibitions including ‘Insects through the Looking-Glass (Story Museum & Royal Entomological Society, 2018) and most recently the critically acclaimed Marvellous Mechanical Museum exhibition at Compton Verney.

I am the editor of The Lewis Carroll Review and Reviews Editor of the British Society for Literature and Science, and my own reviews have previously appeared, among others, in the Lewis Carroll Review and the Journal of Literature and Science; I am currently reviewing David Pyle’s Volcanoes for the Bodleian Library Record. 

I have in the past worked as a translator for Marvel Comics and I frequently give public talks and interviews (see papers&talks section), and am involved in several public engagement projects, such as Oxford’s Alice’s Day. As a mezzo-soprano I am a member of classical choirs as well as the Gilbert & Sullivan Society of the University of Oxford, and enjoy photography, drawing, nature and the theatre.

If you find my work interesting and would like to contact me, invite me as a speaker, or follow even more of my online-ramblings, you can find me on twitter, on Pinterest and on academia.edu, or on the departmental page of my institution, or feel free to send me a message on facebook, add me on LinkedIn or simply send me an email [franziska(at)kohlt.com].

9 responses to “About

  1. Hello Sue!

    I’ve seen, that you are interested in psychedelic/death-spheres… In case of that (not sure wether this phrase is correct) I recommend a very strange, but stunning movie to you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enter_the_Void ….. An astonishing piece of non-mainstream movie-culture. Have fun and keep yourself candid!

  2. i want to read it ..
    Upward and yet not Northward: Journeys through Dream, Death and the Fourth Dimension in H.G. Wells’s Short Fiction.please please please

  3. Krass, ich warte noch auf den Wikipedia-Eintrag.. 😀

  4. Adrian Smith

    Hi there, saw a lone ‘like’ on the Cambridge Children’s lit FB page from you re my Peter & Wendy essay in the Journal of Analytical Psychology – and found my way to this page! Have recently written something for the International Journal of Psychoanalysis – currently under review – on Pinocchio too. I’m mulling a PhD at Cambridge on something Children’s Lit/Psychoanalysis related – any advice you could offer? Best, Adrian

    • Thanks for your comment! Maybe our paths will cross at the big Alice conference at Homerton in September? Let’s certainly have a chat – I’ll send you a message! All best, Fran

      • Adrian

        Sadly I’ll be working most of the Alice week, but might be able to some of the events either in London or Oxford for the last couple of days. Feel free to add me on FB for a chat – your interests in psychology/neurology and children’s lit might have some cross overs with some of the things I’m interested in – more psychoanalysis looking in on children’s lit… 🙂

  5. Adrian

    …might be able to *get to* some of the events… (sic)
    Written pre morning coffee!

  6. Adrian

    Hi Fran, I sent a reply to your email and a copy of my Pinocchio piece. Did that get through? Best, Adrian

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