Sleigh, C. (2019). War and peace in British science fiction fandom, 1936-45. Osiris [Online] 34:177-197. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1086/703986.
Fans of science fiction offer an unusual opportunity to study that rare bird, a “public” view of science in history. Of course science-fiction fans are by no means representative of a “general” public, but they are a coherent, interesting and significant group in their own right. In this paper we follow British fans from their phase of self-organisation just before WW2 and through their wartime experiences. We examine how they defined science and science fiction, and how they connected their interest in them with their personal ambitions and social concerns. Moreover, we show how WW2 clarified and altered these connections. Rather than being distracted from science fiction, fans redoubled their focus upon it during the years of conflict. The number of new fanzines published in the mid-century actually peaked during the War. In this article, we examine what science fiction fandom, developed over the previous half-dozen years, offered them in this time of national trial.
Sleigh, C., Craske, S. and Park, S. (2019). Lowering the tone in Art and Science collaboration: An analysis from Science and Technology Studies. Journal of Science & Popular Culture [Online] 2:37-51. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1386/jspc.2.1.37_1.
This paper analyses a collaborative project in art and science (Metamorphoses) from a Science and Technology Studies (STS) perspective, focusing on pragmatic challenges in the areas of expertise, credit, space, institutions and money.
Sleigh, C. (2017). Contexts of Encounter: How and Where to Criticise Art and Science. Journal of Literature and Science [Online] 10:106-112. Available at: http://www.literatureandscience.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Sleigh-FINAL.pdf.
Art and science as a practice and interdiscipline must bear the weight of critical discourse if it is to be anything more than a lightweight cultural artefact, or window dressing to one or other of its constituent practices. In this short article I briefly review the possible unintended consequences of post-humanism for art and science (A&S), and, re-asserting the value of the Science and Technology Studies (STS) critique, sketch its often unrecognised compatibility with research-based contemporary art. The essay goes on to reflect on how different spaces of display can bring one or another discipline to predominate in the presentation of A&S. The need for neutral, interdisciplinary spaces of display for A&S is highlighted, along with the value of curation as critical practice.
Sleigh, C. and Craske, S. (2017). Art and science in the UK: a brief history and critical reflection. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews [Online] 42:313-330. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/03080188.2017.1381223.
During the first decade of the twenty-first century, a conjoint activity, ‘SciArt’, was constructed, whose supposed interdisciplinarity very often shaded into a species of science communication. In this decade, discussions about the complementarity of art and science were conceived in terms of epistemology, notably the qualities of imagination and curiosity. Having briefly established this historical background, this paper moves on to discuss how, during the current decade, Art and Science (A&S) discourse has altered due to a number of changes in the cultural politics of both its constituent fields, emerging as a ‘transdiscipline’ characterised by ‘creativity’. Eighteen in-depth surveys with leading practitioners in A&S form a substantial part of the research material. The paper examines, in large part through their critically engaged responses, what the disciplinary, economic and cultural implications of this changed discourse may be. Though potentially angled, at times, towards the solution of so-called ‘wicked’ problems, transdisciplinarity also sacrifices the specific critical expertise of art, fetishizes tech at the expense of science, and selectively ignores institutional problems inherent in funding and power structures.
Sleigh, C. (2017). Not one voice speaking to many: E.C. Large, wireless, and science fiction fans in the mid-20th century. Science Museum Group Journal [Online] 8. Available at: https://doi.org/10.15180/170802.
In this paper, E. C. Large’s 1956 novel Dawn in Andromeda is examined, using literary analysis, as a work of public history of science. The novel recounts how God places a pioneer population on a new planet, challenging them to work from nothing to the creation of a ‘seven-valve all-wave superhet wireless’ in a single generation. On a general level, this article presents Dawn in Andromeda as a history of science firmly rooted in the human and material efforts of engineering. As such, it is shown to chime more particularly with the hopeful definitions of science explored by wireless enthusiasts and the first generation of science fiction fans in Britain during the 1930s. However, the optimism of the 1930s is not borne out by the novel; ultimately, Dawn in Andromeda satirises the wireless as a form of corrupted science that did not deliver what the fans had hoped for.
Sleigh, C. (2017). Editorial: Past editors’ favourite papers published during their time in office. British Journal for the History of Science [Online] 50:173-179. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007087417000061.
Sleigh, C. (2015). Writing the scientific self: Samuel Butler and Charles Hoy Fort. Journal of Literature and Science [Online] 8. Available at: http://www.literatureandscience.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/JLS-8.2-Sleigh.pdf.
Samuel Butler (1835-1902) and Charles Fort (1874-1932) were both scientific outsiders of the turn of the twentieth century, critiquing orthodox science whilst attempting to participate in it. Both of them also wrote experimental and innovative autobiographies (1884 and c. 1899-1904 respectively), challenging in their narrative form. Their self-construction in relation to science, it is argued, was effected through these autobiographies. The texts are considered here on multiple levels: in their own right; intertextually with their authors’ other writings; and paratextually with their authors’ lives. This essay builds upon Sally Shuttleworth’s observation that the projects of autobiography and science, in Butler’s oeuvre, are both about ‘the difficulties of defining or maintaining … selfhood’, and extends it to Fort’s case. This selfhood, it is argued, was for both Butler and Fort articulated through the same scientific model: orthogenesis – the pre-ordained unfolding of evolutionary fate. Orthogenesis was for both men a way of accounting for the transformation of self into writer; whilst it was already-being a writer, in having produced an autobiography, that enabled the leap-frogging of orthogenetic inheritance – both blood and money – into a new selfhood. As such, the autobiographies of Butler and Fort are an abductive and symbiotic plotting of science and self. The science and the self, qua practitioner and exemplar of science, are mutually affirming. The closure of autobiography – the final plotting – is done differently in each case, although open-endedness – a refusal to commit – is central to both. For Butler, the transformation is pushed forward into a future-judged authorial self, re-embodied as a textual self. For Fort, things are less clear and the uncertain ending is projected into the cosmos of his later works.
Sleigh, C. (2012). Jan Swammerdam’s Frogs. Notes & Records of the Royal Society [Online] 66:373-392. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsnr.2012.0039.
Having discussed insect metamorphosis at length, Jan Swammerdam's Bybel der Natuure (1679/1737) reached its climax with a substantial description of the generation and muscular activity of frogs. This paper explores the rhetorical role of frogs in Swammerdam's 'great work', showing how they were the Archimedean point from which he aimed to reorder all of creation-from insects to humans-within one glorious, God-ordained natural history and philosophy. Swammerdam linked insects to frogs through a demonstration that all underwent epigenesis; and frogs were then linked to humans through a demonstration of their identical muscular activity. The success of Swammerdam's strategy required a theological reconstruction of the frog, traditionally an ungodly creature, such that trustworthy knowledge could be obtained from its body. Perhaps surprisingly, this act of theological cleansing is shown to be somewhat prefigured in the distinctly non-experimental natural history of Edward Topsell (1608). The paper also examines Swammerdam's interactions with the mystic Antoinette Bourignon, and his challenges in reconciling a spirituality of meletetics with a material epistemology in natural philosophy. Differences are revealed between the natural analogies given by Swammerdam in his published and unpublished writings, undermining to a certain extent the triumphal insect-frog-human rhetorical structure of the Bybel.
Sleigh, C. and Rogers, J. (2012). "Here is my honey-machine”: Sylvia Plath and the Mereology of the Beehive. Review of English Studies [Online] 63:293-310. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/res/hgr106.
This article discusses Sylvia Plath’s ‘bee poems’, a short poetic sequence in her posthumous collection Ariel. These poems have been predominantly treated in relation to the most common themes in Plath scholarship: gender, psychology and what one might term the interpretative trap of biography. By approaching Plath’s bee sequence through poetic form and the history of entomology, however, we aim to reframe its interpretation. Bees, which had been the subject of her father’s scholarly study as well as her own amateur efforts, are suggestive of many of Plath’s important themes—gender, identity, family and so on. But as this article principally examines, their hive identity also provided her with a powerful means of examining her poetic practice. To focus upon Plath’s examination we employ the concept of mereology, the study of wholes and parts. Honeybees—whose individual existence is defined in relation to the whole of the hive—naturally placed the theme at centre stage in Plath’s poems. Together with their ‘outlier’ texts, the bee poems address the ‘wholes’ of poems and their ‘parts’ of words, the ‘whole’ of tradition and the ‘part’ of the poet. This article first focuses on the poetic sequence—of which the bee poems are an example—as a mereological question of literary form. Then, via a discussion of entomology that was contemporary to Plath, it treats apian self-organization as a possible model for poetry, and its implications for the question of authorship and reputation.
Sleigh, C. (2010). The Judgements of Regency Literature. Literature and History [Online] 19:1-17. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.7227/LH.19.2.1.
This article outlines two Regency modes of reading: one drawn from the political philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), and the other from the gentleman of science William Whewell (1794-1866). Bentham's readings are presented as an experiment in radical democracy that was almost, but not quite, effaced by the idealist mode introduced one generation later by Whewell. These modes of reading, and the textual judgements that they entailed, are used to help understand the epistemology of scientific evidence in the Regency era. It is claimed that both literary and scientific judgements were, at root, political, and furthermore that judgement in the courtroom formed their model. Multiple levels of nested and epistolary fiction enabled readers to rehearse and attend to political arguments about the nature of scientific evidence: evidence that, in an era of high political tension, decided the case about nothing less than their own selfhood.
Sleigh, C. (2009). Plastic body, permanent body: Czech representations of corporeality in the early twentieth century. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C [Online] 40:241-255. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.shpsc.2009.09.001.
In the early twentieth century, the body was seen as both an ontogenetic and a phylogenetic entity. In the former case, its individual development, it was manifestly changeable, developing from embryo to maturity and thence to a state of decay. But in the latter case, concerning its development as a species, the question was an open one. Was its phylogenetic nature a stationary snapshot of the slow process of evolution, or was this too mutable? Historians have emphasised that the question of acquired inheritance remained open into the twentieth century; this paper explores how various constructions of the individual as a phylogenetic episode—a stage in the race’s evolution—related to representations of the body in the same period.
A discussion of the work of the brothers Josef and Karel C?apek offers a contextualised answer to the question of bodily representation. Karel C? apek (1890–1938) explored the nature of the ‘average man’ through two different organisms, the robot and the amphibian, epitomes respectively of corporeal permanence and plasticity. Josef C? apek (1887–1945), along with other members of the Group of Plastic Artists, explored visual representations of the body that challenged cubist Bergsonian norms. In so doing, he affirmed what his brother also held: that despite the constrictions imposed by the oppressive political conditions in which the Czechs found themselves, the individual body was a fragile but fluid entity, capable of effecting change upon the future evolution of humankind.
Wainman, R. (2017). The Faces of British Science: Narrating Lives in Science since c.1945.
This thesis uses archived oral history interviews to trace the identities of scientists in narratives that capture their lived experiences of science. It draws upon fifty-four life history interviews with both men and women scientists from the British Library's 'An Oral History of British Science' (OHBS) archive. The OHBS was first established in 2009 to address the lack of comprehensive oral history archives devoted to documenting the personal experiences and memories of professionals involved in contemporary British science. In this thesis, however, the in-depth nature of these interviews are used to explore scientists' childhoods, careers and eventual retirement. This thesis therefore provides one of the first systematic attempts to draw together the personal accounts of professional scientists from a major public archive dedicated to science.
In order to situate the study of scientists' lives, two fields of research are placed under scrutiny - oral history and history of science. In doing so, this thesis traces a longer tension between the 'history from below' approach of oral history and the 'great men' foundations of history of science when the two fields were still in their infancy. The different levels of emphasis that oral historians have placed on exploring issues such as trust, empathy and subjectivity have also been accompanied by a persistent scepticism found in history and associated studies in the sociology of science. Firstly, this thesis draws upon the democratic ethos of oral history in order to reconcile the trust and suspicion surrounding scientists' accounts of their lives. Secondly, the life history methodology of the OHBS interviews, which typically documents a whole person's life, draws attention to the importance of childhood and retirement for establishing scientists' identities as they sought to construct and reconstruct their lives in science. Lastly, it concludes with the implications of adopting an oral history approach to illuminate the contingent nature of scientists' identities.
Romén, R. (2016). Convolutions: Writing the Mind and the Neurology of the Literary Brain.
A convolution is a loop, or a fold, as the folds of the brain are sometimes termed the cerebral convolutions. But it is a loop in another sense, in the way stories or narratives are often referred to as convolutions (or convoluted) if their plots and themes are complex and resist any linear, straightforward reading. These senses are well established, but in this thesis I propose a new interpretation of convolution (or convolving), as a metaphor for a type of process imbedded in multiple texts, discourses and disciplines, primary amongst which are literature, neuroscience and philosophy of mind. Highlighting this looping, reflexive process means actively engaging in it, as I do, and thus I ultimately promote the heretofore unremarked phenomenon of convolution as a self-conscious practice.
The thesis tracks this overarching metaphor of convolutions through a series of sub-metaphors, or instantiations of convolutions, each of which comprises a chapter. The introductory chapter interrogates the revolutionary rhetoric of neuroscience, and proposes a convolutionary approach gleaned from literature to replace it. The first chapter proper explains that science sees itself as a quest with the brain its ultimate goal, but that more often than not, this quest is quixotic - and that if acknowledged, quixotism can actually be illuminating. The second chapter argues that neuroscientists paint themselves in the vein of literary detectives, and in doing so, are as susceptible to the genre's pitfalls as its boons. The third chapter claims that if the brain is a labyrinth, then so too is the brain science that deems it as such, and literature's treatment of the figure of the labyrinth (the treatment itself labyrinthine) can provide a productive framework for analysing this claim. The fourth chapter examines the unchallenged but ubiquitous metaphorical assumption that lies behind the idea of neurons firing, and asks if the overlooked ethical quandary at the nexus of brains and bullets would not benefit from the more self-aware ballistic analyses of literary texts. A concluding chapter brings all these overlapping threads together, suggesting how the notion of convolutions might have important ramifications beyond neuroscience and literature - for new textual methodologies and epistemological categories, for new interdisciplinary endeavours, and above all, for new conceptions of the self.
White, A. (2016). From the Science of Selection to Psychologising Civvy Street: The Tavistock Group, 1939-1948.
The work of psychiatrists affiliated with the Tavistock Clinic and Tavistock Institute has been credited with reshaping how workplaces were managed and with psychologising British society, providing British people with a new psychological language for thinking about problems. This thesis provides a history of the Second World War roots of this work. It examines two projects which emerged from a remarkable collaboration between the Tavistock group and the British Army: the War Office Selection Boards (WOSBs) and Civil Resettlement Units (CRUs). These projects, whose scale was vast and unprecedented in British human science, involved the creation and management of processes to choose leaders and to help communities disrupted by war to return to peace.
As well as exploring how particular psychological programmes, theories, methods and technologies were devised, this work considers the implications of this work for those who were involved in the wartime work. It provides a history of the co-constitution of psychological expertise, military management strategies, technologies of assessment, and therapeutic intervention. This is achieved by reconstructing the complex negotiations that surrounded the WOSBs and CRUs, by tracing the macro-scale social concerns and the micro-scale personal relationships of individuals that shaped the WOSBs and the CRUs. Historiographical approaches such as actor-network theory and S.L. Star’s work on “boundary objects” are used to examine how psychological theories were balanced with military expectations and demands. The thesis highlights the importance of communication strategies, the negotiation of networks, and administrative structures in the production of science and expertise.