Friday, 19 August 2011

Lots of Sci-Lit

Sci-Lit is like Sci-Art, but dealing with words... and here are two wonderful illustrations of what this could mean. First, biologist Rachel Rodman's fantastic article in LabLit entitled "Text as Genome: The New Literary Geneticists". What is she talking about? Well, nothing less than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith. Here's a taster:
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is in this sense a genetically modified organism, derived from the ancestral Pride and Prejudice by the introduction of new (genetic) material taken from the unrelated "monster" genre. A small-scale comparison of the two texts supports this idea: all Grahame-Smith's modifications have parallels with genomic modifications performed (or harnessed) by laboratory scientists. Here, I examine six classes (Insertions, Duplications, Insertions with Duplication, Replacements, Over-expression, and Gain-of Function Mutations) of these modifications, and draw parallels with biological examples.
Intrigued? I was... read the full article here. Biologists, what do you think of her argument?

And the other thing I'd like to draw your attention to is the UK Royal Society's first Festival of Literature and the Arts, One Culture, being held in London, 1-2 October 2011 Here's the introduction to the event by Professor Uta Frith FRS:
This year we are celebrating the anniversary of the foundation of the library and collections of the Royal Society. It all started small, with a single book, and a tiny one at that. Diplomat, natural philosopher and founder member of the Royal Society, Kenelm Digby donated this gift and thereby inspired others to do likewise. In this way he initiated what has now grown into a national treasure. What could be more fitting for a celebration than a festival for literature, arts and science! Its apt name ‘One Culture’ confronts the famous C.P. Snow lecture “Two Cultures” (1959), which pointed out that modern society suffered from a lack of communication between sciences and humanities, and reminds us that the separation of science from other cultural achievements is both artificial and unnecessary.
Looking at this wonderfully colourful programme, it is clear that science is represented in literature far more than is commonly assumed, and we are delighted to feature a number of contemporary authors who can speak to this fact. It is time also to do away with another artificial separation, the idea that different aspects of science, literature and arts, appeal to different age groups. The festival features family events, theatrical performances, discussions, and talks in the wild abandon you should expect of  ‘One culture’. We are extremely proud that superstars of science and literature have agreed to contribute to the experience and that mathematicians, astronomers and biologists will be present alongside historians of science, science writers, poets and novelists, many of whom are household names in the sciences as well as in the creative arts.
This sounds like exactly my kind of event - I'm particularly excited about the Fiction lab event hosted by scientist and novelist Jenny Rohn, (who happens to be the founder of LabLit, which published Rachel's article above!) swiftly followed by Michael Frayn talking about his quantum physics play, Copenhagen. More information about the festival can be found here and on Twitter under the hashtag #oneculture

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