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Anne-Sophie Gabillas


Transgressing Boundaries in Science Fiction

24-27 April 2019
Maison Française d'Oxford



  • 'Paradoxical twins: the co-emergence of science and science fiction in the Enlightenment'

Rob Iliffe (Oxford University)
Discussant: Frédérique Ait-Touati (CNRS, Paris)

The advent of Copernicus’s heliocentric theory, and in particular, the extraordinary impact of Galileo’s telescopic discoveries, opened up numerous imaginative possibilities for philosophers, theologians and novellists.  The early modern Sun was now a star around which the Earth and its de-centred inhabitants orbited, and the ‘fixed’ stars that were located in an infinitely large universe were assumed to be at the centre of similar star systems in which some form of life almost certainly existed.  Imaginary extensions of terrestrial European expansion built on the twin genres of travel literature and utopian writings, these were more or less plausible scenarios in which voyagers might travel to other worlds, and discover or create ideal societies.  Hence, an instrumentally, mathematically and experimentally-driven Scientific Revolution emerged alongside techno-scientific utopian futures — that is, at the same time as proto-Science Fiction.  Having outlined the key developments in this process, I conclude by discussing the ways in which science and Science Fiction interact in the twenty-first century.

  • 'Common Creativities in Art and Science: the Entanglements of the Novel and Experiment'

Tom McLeish (University of York)

A new book The Poetry and Music of Science recounts the written and oral narratives of projects within both sciences and arts, finding that the ‘Two Cultures’ constitute a very poor categorisation of creative modes. A far better one identifies the (i) visual; (ii) textual and (iii) abstract modes of imaginative thought that play out across disciplines and in sciences as much as in arts and humanities.  In this lecture we focus on the deep entanglements between fictional writing and experimental science, starting with their common early-modern origin, and asking why Wordsworth’s vision of science-inspired poetry has not been realised. The Ars Poetica genre of Henry James Art of the Novel and physiologist William Beveridge’s Art of Scientific Investigation reveal another common narrative plot: the story of human creativity itself.

Discussant:  Amandas Rees (University of York)

This will be followed by the unveiling of the exhibition '19 Years of Utopiales'

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