BSLS Round Table on Children’s Literature and Science

Later this week I will be presenting as part of a Round Table at the annual conference of the British Society for Literature and Science.

Child characters and ideas about childhood and child readers have held significant place in literature, science writing, and educational discourse at least since the late eighteenth century. With shifting perceptions of what childhood itself constituted, they were the subject of education, as much as they were also challengers of status quo of ‘science’, of knowledge, and the societal structures facilitating it. This round table discuss the shifting dynamics in the relationships between children, literature, and science together, in a variety of contexts.

Contributors and topics:
Chair: Prof Martin Willis (Cardiff)

  • Prof Laurence Talairach-Vielmas (Toulouse/ Centre Alexandre Koyré), ‘Science for little girls? The Case of Aunt Judy’s Magazine’
  • Dr Will Tattersdill (Birmingham), Dinosaurs and Palaeontology for Children
  • Kanta Dihal (St Anne’s, Oxford), Quantum Physics and Children’s Reading
  • Dr Emily Alder (Edinburgh Napier), Frankenstein Retold for Children
  • Franziska Kohlt (Brasenose, Oxford), Through the two-way mirror and what Alice found there
  • Dr Melanie Keene (Homerton, Cambridge), Even the parodies: Sayers, satire, and children’s literature and science

Questions the panel will explore will include:

  • What strategies are deployed in science writing for children? How have these changed over time? How do they differ for younger and older children, or for different scientific disciplines?
  • How does children’s fiction represent scientific enquiry and scientists? What does it mean to be a child scientist in a fictional text?
  • How does science inform constructions of childhoods in literature? How have these changed over time?
  • What roles do form and genre play in how science is communicated to children or represented in their popular culture?
  • Can taking science as a lens help us to rethink how we value and evaluate children’s literature, as well as the capacities of child readers?

This discussion will be developed into an edited book collection of essays on children’s literature and science.



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Lewis Carroll Keynote Lecture, Université de Mons 19. April

I am excited to be giving the keynote lecture at this conference at Université de Mons (UMONS), Belgium, on the 19th of April 2017, alongside Prof Will Brooker, Prof Douglas Kibbee and Prof Isabelle Nières-Chevrel. I will be speaking about Lewis Carroll as a Victorian and man of science, historicist approaches to literature and how they can help address common misconceptions in Carroll’s biography & illuminate interpretations of Alice.

You can sign up for the conference here.


Many thanks to UMons for the wonderful three days!

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Happy Valentines Day

Happy Valentine’s Day from George MacDonald! Two weeks left to submit an abstract to our July conference!

George MacDonald's Scotland

As it is February 14th I wanted to share one of the treasures to be found in Aberdeenshire Council’s Mintlaw archives. This handmade valentines card from George to Louisa MacDonald. Complete with original envelope. It, along with other items will be available to view and handle during the special collections workshops. A transcription of the poem is available under the image.


The Poem reads:

St Valentine thanks you Queen of hearts
For all the loving aid
Which you have lent him in all parts
In making happy youth & maid.

And though some hearts are still alone,
It has not been your fault;
Your kindness somewhat does atone
And makes their tears less salt.

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Lecture & Seminar on Alice in Wonderland, Universität Leipzig 13.&15.12.2016

I am excited to return to my alma mater to lecture on Lewis Carroll & Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and what potential for original research historicist and interdisciplinary approaches to literature have to offer. In an accompanying seminar I will explore the aspects of play and game in children’s literature through Lewis Carroll’s interest in the two fields. Examining Alice and children’s literature as play or game, the seminar will explore what is being played with, by what means, and what insights into Victorian culture this can offer.

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Call for Papers ‘George MacDonald’s Scotland’ Conference 19-21 July 2017, University of Aberdeen

gmd-conf-logoThe organisers are excited to announce that the Call for Papers is now open for this three-day conference, which will be held from Wednesday 19th to Friday 21st of July 2017 in the Old Aberdeen Campus of the University of Aberdeen. It will explore all aspects related to the Scottish upbringing, education and heritage of the cleric, polymath and writer of fantastic literature George MacDonald. It aims to fathom the importance of this facet in his enduring literary, theological cultural impact upon a wide circle of thinkers and writers such as H. G. Wells, G.K. Chesterton, and the Inklings.

Keynote speakers include Dr David Robb (University of Dundee), Dr Dimitra Fimi(Cardiff Metropolitan University) Dr John Pazdziora (Shantou University) and Dr Colin Manlove (University of Aberdeen).

This event will draw together an international community of scholars to discuss his Scottish heritage as an overlooked aspect of MacDonald scholarship. In this context, it will refocus attention to the unique resources available within the North East of Scotland. In conjunction with University of Aberdeen’s Special Collections, attendees will be able to explore a selection of MacDonald’s manuscripts and letters through workshops and exhibitions. There will be an opportunity for delegates to visit the MacDonald’s birth place Huntly, and see further resources held in the town’s Brander Library which is not usually available to the general public.

Proposals are invited for 20 minute papers, or panel proposals of three speakers, which will explore MacDonald in contexts that may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Scottish identity and use of Scottish settings
  • Scottish religion and church reform, esp. Calvinism
  • Scottish philosophical movements, esp. the works of Thomas Carlyle
  • Scottish Education
  • Scottish science, esp. Chemistry, Medicine, and Psychology; the works of Alexander Bain, William Gregory
  • MacDonald and Scottish novelists esp. Margaret Oliphant, R. L. Stevenson; aspects of nation building
  • Scottish folklore, art, magic and mysticism, and children’s literature
  • Celticism; Irish, Gaelic and Cymric studies
  • Representation of Scottish cities, esp. MacDonald’s home town of Huntly
  • The inclusion of Doric dialect in MacDonald’s novels
  • The impact and influence of MacDonald’s legacy within North East Scotland

Submissions should include the paper title, abstract (250 words), and a brief biography. Panel proposals should include abstracts (250 words) for individual papers in addition to a brief (max. 200 words) outline of the panel theme and title. All submissions should be sent to Submissions for workshops or alternative forms of presentation are also particularly welcome.

The deadline for applications is March 1st 2017 Successful proposals will be contacted in early April 2017.

Any queries should be addressed to the conference organisers, Rebecca Langworthy, Franziska Kohlt, or Derek Stewart via the conference email address in the first instance:

You can download a PDF copy of the Call for Papers here, and follow the conference on facebook and twitter.

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Creepy Victorians: Victorian Literature and Insects for #NIW2016

I wrote a blog on the Victorians’ fascination with insects for
National Insect Week 2016, featuring some stunning entomological fashion illustrations from the Punch magazine, space-insects, and Alice’s adventures as naturalist in Through The Looking-Glass – read the blog here!

Follow National Insect Week on twitter with the hashtag #NIW2016 and @insectweek, and on

iwlfinalai [no_dates]RES

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‘The real-life inspiration for the Mad Hatter and his Tea Party’

A press release for my article ‘The Stupidest Tea-Party in All My Life’: Lewis Carroll and Victorian Psychiatric Practice‘, published in the Journal of Victorian Culture, is now available here. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me with any enquiries.

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