Edited Collection - The Scientist in Popular Culture

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Rebecca Janicker, University of Portsmouth

From news and documentaries to TV drama and major media franchises, science has become a firm fixture in contemporary media culture. Across these diverse formats, a fascination with the perceived capacity of science – whether in the guise of medicine, criminology, space science or engineering – to transform life in wonderful and fearful ways endures. The figure of the scientist is science made manifest and, though different variants have evolved over the centuries, the scientist has remained a constant presence in Western culture. The last hundred years or so has seen many developments in science and technology and popular culture has kept abreast of these, portraying scientists that respond to the shifting hopes and fears of eager audiences. Science fiction may work variously to celebrate or denigrate scientific values and activities and many horror fictions have explored the ramifications of dabbling in science and technology. Moreover, the recent flourishing of superhero narratives has meant a strong focus on such characters and scenarios. The imaginary feats and failures, as well as the cultural prominence, of scientists have attained ever-greater heights as a result. Science and scientists have also flourished in other genres, such as forensic drama, police procedurals and true crime narratives, found their way into children’s fictions, and into comedy.

Acknowledging the long and enduring history of fictional scientists, including adaptations and re-imaginings, this planned essay collection seeks to offer critical interrogations of recent portrayals of the scientist as well as fresh insights into long-established characters. Scientists have featured on the big screen from the early days of cinema and held their own on the small for decades, from network television staples and lavish HBO offerings to recent fare on streaming services like Netflix. With this tradition in mind, suggested case studies might include, though are not limited to, the following texts:

Films: Annihilation (2018); Back to the Future (1985); Contact (1997); Deep Blue Sea (1999); Despicable Me (2010); The Fly (1958), The Fly (1986); Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931); Frankenstein,etc (Universal), Curse of Frankenstein, etc (Hammer), I, Frankenstein (2014); Godzilla (1998), Godzilla (2014); Hollow Man (2000); Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989); I Am Legend (2007); The Invisible Man (1933); Island of Lost Souls (1932), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996); Jurassic Park (1993), etc; The Man with Two Brains (1983); The Martian (2015); MCU (Black Panther, Deadpool, The Hulk, Iron Man, Spider-Man, Venom,etc); Mimic (1997); The Nutty Professor (1996); The Omega Man (1971); Outbreak (1995); Piranha (1978); Re-Animator (1985); Splice (2009); World War Z (2013); Young Frankenstein (1974); 28 Days Later (2002), plus any prequels, sequels and other franchise entries.

TV: The Alienist; American Horror Story; The Big Bang Theory; Bones; Chernobyl; CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, CSI: Cyber; Dexter; Doctor Who; The Flash; Futurama; Game of Thrones; Hannibal; The O.A.; Penny Dreadful; Rick and Morty; Ripper Street; Sherlock; Silent Witness; The Strain; Stranger Things; Waking the Dead; The Walking Dead; Westworld, plus any spin-offs and other franchise entries.

Potential topics might include: issues of representation (e.g. age, childhood, gender, race, sexuality); genre (e.g. detective fiction, forensic drama, medical drama, police procedurals); Gothic and horror tropes; the role of the scientist in environmental catastrophes and outbreaks; national identity and history; science and ideology (e.g. philosophy, religion, scientism); science in partnership (e.g. business, Government, military, etc)


Advice for Contributors

Please send 250 word abstracts, along with a short bio, to Rebecca.Janicker@port.ac.uk by September 15, 2019. Abstracts should aim to clarify the intended scope and focus of the essay and include a provisional title. Queries are welcome at the same email address.


Publishers have been contacted about the project and abstracts will form part of the written proposal. The final essays will be scholarly and engaging and 7000–8000 words in total.


About the Editor

Rebecca Janicker is a Senior Lecturer in Film and Media Studies at the University of Portsmouth, UK. She received her PhD from the University of Nottingham in 2014 and had her thesis published as The Literary Haunted House: Lovecraft, Matheson, King and the Horror in Between (McFarland, 2015). She is the editor of Reading ‘American Horror Story’: Essays on the Television Franchise (McFarland, 2017) and has published journal articles and book chapters on Gothic and horror in literature and comics, film and TV.