The Expanding Universe: Science and Literature in the Nineteenth Century (International Conference: 6-8 Feb 2010)

full name / name of organization: 
Centre of Advanced Study, Department of English, Jadavpur University, Kolkata

The conference will focus on the interface between science and literature in the nineteenth century. Professor Gillian Beer will deliver the inaugural lecture at the Conference.

The scientific temper of the nineteenth century – post-Newton – is revealed in pursuits in fields as varied as astronomy and geology, which dominated the first half of the century, and evolutionary biology which posed a serious challenge to the certitudes of religion in the decades following the landmark publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859). Apart from these major 'natural sciences' and cosmology, the 'social' sciences such as anthropology, sociology and psychology also attracted much attention, as did the more whimsical fields of study like phrenology, craniology, and sexology. Such varied scientific explorations offered a rich mine for the literary imagination in terms of both themes and images, inspiring both utopic futuristic visions of human existence as well as parodic spine-chilling versions of dystopia. The Darwinian legacy also accounted for both the positive faith in progress and perfectibility as well as the impression of brooding melancholy, the emotional disquiet and spiritual crisis – fuelled by the apparently amoral randomness of the universe and thoughts of the extinction of species that invariably accompany progress to higher forms – that is so characteristic of the Victorian period.

We invite papers (of approx. 30 mins duration) which address any of the broad issues within the parameters set above or, indeed, any other related area. Titles and Abstracts of papers should reach the organisers by 15 Nov 2009.