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‘The Adventures of Manuscripts’ – New TV documentary

After a long pandemic delay, French/German prime culture channel ARTE’s new series – L’Aventure des manuscrits/ Das Abenteuer der Manuskripte – is now out and available for streaming – and I am in it!

The first instalment is dedicated to the history of Alice in Wonderland’s manuscript – and I appear in the film speak about the writing and publishing history of the book. Filmed at Oxford just before the pandemic, the documentary stars even the famous Oxford Dodo, thanks to the generosity of the Oxford University Museum for Natural History who let the team film there.

The documentary is available in French and German (all interviewees speak English, and if you look up the documentary on YouTube, you can enable auto-translated English subtitles!). It’s very beautifully produced, and I hope you enjoy it!

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CFP: Insects in the Popular Imagination of the 21st Century

Simon Bacon and myself are excited to circulate a CFP for a collection with the preliminary title ‘Insects in the Public Imagination of the 21st Century’.

The planets last hope, messengers from Hell, environmental revenge or the post-human future insects are vital to our continued existence on the Earth yet trigger all manner of anxieties around the precarious nature and integrity of our psychological and physical selves. This collection looks at the place of insects in the popular imagination, across cultures and mediums in the 21st Century and what it might say about our relationship to the natural world and possible post/non- human futures.

At this stage just send a notice of interest or a 300 word abstract if you’ve got something ready by the end of November 2021, final essay wouldn’t be needed til 2024.

Message or mail us on: baconetti@googlemail.com & franziska.kohlt@york.ac.uk

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Curiouser and Curiouser! Süddeutsche Zeitung on Alice at the V&A

If you’re in Germany, and you haven’t had a chance to see the V&A exhibition, enjoy this preview with a commentary from me on why Alice is still the perfect medium to push boundaries – in fashion, politics and elsewhere.

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Interview for Willow Audiobooks ‘Alice’s Day’ Podcast

Willow Audiobooks are celebrating the sesquicentenary of Through the Looking-Glass AND Alice’s Day with releasing a new audiobook of Looking-Glass and an hour-long podcast to accompany it, for which Willow founder Stephen interviewed myself and Charlie Lovett – to explore the history of the books in the context of the author’s biography – from some angles that haven’t so frequently been explored, such as Carroll’s faith and his interest in science and social activism – tune in and find out more!

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New documentary: The Manuscript’s Secret History/ L’Aventure des Manuscrits

A new series of literature documentaries focusing on the histories of the manuscripts of famous works – “The Manuscript’s Secret” – will be coming to French-German TV channel Arte in 2021 – starting on 29th of August with the Alice episode. The documentary was originally filmed in January 2020, but production was held up by the pandemic.

I make an appearance in the Lewis Carroll episode to speak about Lewis Carroll’s interest in science shaped his life and writing, and to show how Oxford’s influence on Alice is revealed in the book’s manuscript. I also discuss some of the afterlife of Alice and its manuscript alongside Edward Wakeling – editor, author and Carroll scholar extraordinaire – who will offer a rare glance into his fascinating collection of Lewis Carroll documents.

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‘Science, Imagination & the Big Questions’ Templeton Panel: Why we should avoid warfare rhetoric in SciComm

As part of a Templeton Foundation funded panel on Science, Imagination and the Big Questions Panel at the York Festival of Ideas, I had the chance to explore together with Tom McLeish and Amanda Rees the really very long history of warfare narratives in the history, and historiography of science – tracing it to its presence in Science Communication during the Covid-19 pandemic – a recording of the talk is now available on YouTube.

This panel discussion reflected on our research of the past 15 months into Covid-19 narratives in the cultural context of the United Kingdom, where the preference for them has a complex political history, and, for that reason, strong religious overtones, but also put it into historical perspective.

We were delighted to receive positive feedback from the audience at the event, who engaged in a fascinating discussion following our talk, and wrote blogs about our panel. This panel continues our outreach, engagement and impact work in a variety of settings, as we recently presented this research at a seminar the Nuffield Department for Primary Care, and our work has has now been used by several Universities in the UK and US for teaching students in science communication, and journalism – as well as in Science Communication seminars for Church of England leaders.

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News Article: Why are Lewis Carroll misquotes so common?

I was interviewed for a recent Guardian article about misquoting Lewis Carroll after a set of commemorative coins appeared with quotations certainly not taken from Lewis Carroll or his famous novel. Those coins were not a singularity: in this anniversary year of Through the Looking-Glass, several National organisations’ social media accounts had fallen into the same trap, and adorned their posts with quotes normally found on Alice-themed memes and merchandise across the web – but not in Carroll’s books.

The article mentioned a resource available via the Lewis Carroll Review, compiled by Lenny de Rooy, for authors wanting to double-check if a quote really is from Carroll’s novels, or an internet phenomenon.

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Through the Looking-Glass Sesquicentenary Conference

I am very excited to announce that the Call for Papers for the Through Looking-Glass Sesquicentenary Conference is now live!
The conference will be fully-online, and hosted by the University of York from 4 – 5th November 2021.

Our confirmed keynote speakers will be historian of photography, and curator at the National Gallery of Art, Dr Diane Waggoner, and award-winning author, collector, and long-standing Carroll scholar Charlie Lovett.

The Looking-Glass itself will be the focal point of the conference. Aiming to explore the significance of the mirror in literature, science, theology, art and other fields, it will explore any facets of this concept that were relevant to ideas that shaped Carroll’s
work, or, which have since been integral to its interpretation at different points in time.

We particularly also invite reflections from practitioners, including creators of adaptations of the text, professionals in translation, museum studies, librarians, fashion, as well as from performers and interpreters, authors, poets and illustrators.

Abstracts for presentations of up to 300 words, including up to 5 keywords, should be sent to lookingglass2021@gmail.com by 15 June 2021, and contributors will be invited to submit proposals for publication after the conference.

For more information please have a look at our shiny new website!

We are very much looking forward to your contributions – and to seeing you all in November!

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Oxford University Alumni Interview for National Storytelling Week

For National Storytelling Week, the Oxford Alumni Magazine QUAD has interviewed me on my work on literature, science and the importance of storytelling in public understanding of science, including during the Covid-19 pandemic.

They also asked about my favourite childhood fairy-tale, and my time of Oxford, including the challenges of doing interdisciplinary research – head this way to find out more.

The article also features the lovely film made by the University of Oxford about my work on Lewis Carroll, Victorian Science books for children – and real mad tea parties – which you can watch below.

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War, sacrifice, and swallows that tell of summer: the narratives and metaphors of the Covid-19 pandemic

A line from Vera Lynn's WW2 song, also quoted by Elizabeth II during the Covid-19 pandemic, in a pub window

Since joining the University of York, I have been applying my background in communication and media science, history of science, and comparative literary studies to analyse the narratives of the Covid-19 pandemic. A preprint of my first research article ‘Over by Christmas: The impact of war-metaphors and other science-religion narratives on science communication environments during the Covid-19 crisis’ is now available. In it, I outline the prevalence, and the reasons and implications of the UK’s cultural preference for framing Covid-19 as warfare, but also explain its shortcomings in a science communication context. I have spoken about this research to German news Channel WDR.

This research touches on medical communication, history of science, theological themes. In a forthcoming book chapter ‘When words are poison: Toxic narratives in health communication‘, I explore how ill-chosen narratives in health scenarios pollute science communication environment, acting in a way analogous to polluting toxins. In a recent conference paper, I explore also what the history of science, science communication, and religion of past epidemics can teach us about the use of narrative in a public health crisis through a comparison of Covid-19 with the Victorian cholera epidemic, which also shows us what narratives and metaphors might be preferable. I have also written an article on the science communication of Christian ministers in the Victorian cholera epidemics for the Methodist Recorder. I expand on the comparison with the Victorian cholera epidemics in my contribution to a Historicising Covid-19 collection, forthcoming in 2021 with De Gruyter. If you’re pressed for time, I also wrote a shorter blog piece, which you can read here.

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