University of Birmingham Edgbaston Campus

In April, the College of Arts and Law hosted the a combined conference of the British Society for Literature and Science (BSLS), the European Society for Literature, Science and the Arts (SLSAeu), and the Commission on Science and Literature (CoSciLit). It was the first time that these three major learned societies on literature and science all came together, for this reputationally significant event.

For three days over 200 academics attended in person or online across a programme of over 150 papers. There was significant representation from University of Birmingham staff and postgraduate researchers including the opening plenary from the directors of the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research, the Birmingham Institute for Sustainability & Climate Action and the Institute for STEMM in Culture and Society  which was followed by a panel dedicated to humanities research on forests at Birmingham. 

One of my main goals as President of the Commission on Science and Literature is to foster a global community of scholars working on the relationship between literature and science. It was very exciting to see so many delegates from all around the world. Online options as well as face to face allowed us to be able to bring people together in a more sustainable and inclusive way. We heard from speakers from over 30 countries, including Brazil, Grenada, Albania, India and Japan. The range of research on display was extraordinary. I heard fantastic talks on topics from early modern astrology and Goethe’s botanical poetry, to the magazines of the British Antarctic Survey and mental health in Singaporean crime series. The conference was rounded off perfectly with a tour of the BIFoR FACE experiment and the Ruskin Land forest site where we have been working on fantasy fiction and forest ecology in partnership with the Guild of St George.

Professor John Holmes, conference academic lead

‘The conference reinforced for me the need to use language and performance to communicate hopeful messages about how we can change, rather than communicating fear and despair that will not result in climate and sustainability action – but rather cause climate anxiety, human health problems and inaction – which we cannot afford this in a climate emergency.’

Professor David Hannah, Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Sustainability and Director of the Birmingham Institute for Sustainability & Climate Action