BioCriticism webinar – 24th of May

The next BioCriticism webinar will take place on zoom on the 24th of May at 2 pm CET (Paris time): Paul Hamann-Rose (University of Passau) will give a talk on “Books of Life in the Age of the Genome”. His respondent will be Rūta Šlapkauskaitė (Vilnius University). All are welcome.

For information about the webinar, contact Liliane Campos.

BioCriticism webinar, 24th of May 2024, 2 pm CET

“Books of Life in the Age of the Genome”

Speaker: Dr. Paul Hamann-Rose (University of Passau)

Respondent: Dr. Rūta Šlapkauskaitė (Vilnius University)

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82747277584?pwd=TjUwdUhYb2ZDbloxQmFPYUgwRFEydz09

Meeting ID: 827 4727 7584

Passcode: 329900

Abstract: Over the course of the second half of the twentieth century, the novel increasingly enters into dialogue with genetic discourses of life, examining their foundational assumptions as well as potential consequences for individuals and socio-political communities. The novel does not simply embrace the new genetic propositions but appropriates and critically examines them. Central concerns that have shaped the novel’s traditional representation of life expand to include a newly genetic perspective. In the age of the genome, I argue, the novel emerges as a genetic ‘book of life’. To demonstrate the theoretical, aesthetic and political consequences of this development, I turn to Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy. The trilogy’s ambitious imaginative treatment of genetic discourses and technologies exemplifies an important ecological exploration of genetic science today, which underlines the critical potential of the novel to contribute to cultural and socio-political debates about future life on the planet.

Paul Hamann-Rose is Assistant Professor of English Literature and Culture at the University of Passau, Germany. He studied at the University of London Institute in Paris and at the University of Hamburg, where he received his PhD. His two principle areas of research are the legal and cultural construction of authorship across the new media landscapes of British Romanticism, and the interrelations between literature and genetic science. For the last couple of years, he has been a member of the GetPreCiSe research project on genetic privacy at Vanderbilt University. He has published widely on cultural representations of genetic science in contexts from postcolonialism to privacy and bioethics. His book Genetics and the Novel: Reimagining Life Through Fiction has just been published with the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Science and Medicine series.

Rūta Šlapkauskaitė is an Associate Professor of English literature at Vilnius University, Lithuania. Her research interests include Canadian and Australian literature, neo-Victorianism, and environmental humanities. She has collaborated with colleagues from Sweden and Estonia in a Nordplus project on Canadian Studies and is currently participating in the EU Horizon projectMotherNet, which marshals cross-disciplinary perspectives on the material and discursive practices of motherhood. Among her recent ecocritical publications are articles on Canadian authors Fred Stenson and Ed O’Loughlin, and Caribbean writer David Dabydeen. Rūta is currently researching the conceptual relevance of genre in narrating the climate emergency in contemporary Anglophone literatures.

BIOCRITICISM webinar – 26th of April

The next BioCriticism webinar will take place on the 26th of April at 2 pm CET (Paris time): Jerome de Groot (University of Manchester) will give a talk on “The Biomolecularisation of the Archive”. His respondent will be François-Joseph Lapointe (University of Montréal). All are welcome.

BioCriticism webinar, 26/04, 2 pm CET (8 am ET)

“The Biomolecularisation of the Archive”

Speaker: Prof. Jerome de Groot (University of Manchester)

Respondent: Prof. François-Joseph Lapointe (Université de Montréal)

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/83685396506?pwd=ejZlcThMZGVKNXkyRHZXSkt1T0dCQT09

Meeting ID: 836 8539 6506
Passcode: 602541

Abstract: New genetic approaches to the material of the archive have wide implications for our conception of the past, our understanding of memory, and our broader sense of what historical information even is. Whilst historical data has regularly been developed and challenged, and historians use a breadth of information, my contention is that the accelerated development of huge datasets that are beyond the reach of ‘historians’ has the potential to transform the discipline. Set within (whilst also driving) a wider biomolecular turn in society, as cultural understanding of the past becomes genetically-informed, this change in the historical approach suggests a shift towards what I call ‘double helix history’.

Professor Jerome de Groot teaches at the University of Manchester. He is the author most recently of Double Helix History which looks at DNA and the past. He is currently working on new projects about FutureArchives and Biomolecular Humanities.  

Professor François-Joseph Lapointe is a biologist and bioartist, teaching at the Université de Montréal. As part of his research, he is interested in phylogenetics, systematics, and the human microbiome. As part of his artistic practice, he draws inspiration from models of molecular biology and genetics.

Microscopic Life Conference 15th March

“Microscopic Life in 20th- and 21st-Century Performance”

La vie microscopique dans les arts vivants des XXe et XXIe siècles

PROGRAMME

Fondation Maison des Sciences de L’Homme, 54 bd Raspail – Le Comptoir (1er étage)

9.00                 Welcome: Gisèle Séginger, director of the Biohumanities programme

9.15-10.15      Panel 1

– Violaine Heyraud (Sorbonne Nouvelle) : « Le microbe dans les intrigues du théâtre de Grand-Guignol (1905-1930) : agent ou instrument ? »

– Daniel Ibrahim Abdalla (University of Liverpool), “‘A Strange and Secret Thing’: Staging Heredity in the Harlem Renaissance”

10.15-10.45    Coffee Break

10.45-12.00    Panel 2

– Patrick Armstrong (Cambridge University), “Samuel Beckett’s Magnifiers”

– Kirsten E. Shepherd-Barr (University of Oxford), “Medicine Show (1940) and ‘the Unseen Enemy’” 

– Elisabeth Darrobers (Sorbonne Université) and Wallerand Bazin (University of Oxford), “Screening the probiotic: Jumping microbial and geomorphic scales on stage”

12.00-13.30    Lunch

13.30-14.30    Panel 3

– Martin Grünfeld (University of Copenhagen), “Notes from a museum underground: on the troubled curation of metabolic wizardry”

– Diya Mehta and Claire Nettleton (Benton Museum of Art, Pomona College), “Microculture: Microbial Performances at the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College”

14.30-14.45    Short Break

14.45-16.00    Panel 4

– Marcela Moura (Sorbonne Nouvelle and UNIRIO), « Analyse systémique des interactions au sein de la performance ‘From plankton to human bodies : the dance of interacting types’ »

– Lois Oppenheim (Montclair State University), “Interoception and Reception: Performing and Viewing the Language of Gaga in ‘Naharin’s Virus’”

– Rosa Postlethwaite (Coventry University and Aarhus University), ““Solos” with Sourdough: Dramaturgy with other-than-human species”

16.00-16.30    Coffee Break

16.30-17.45    Panel 5

– Amandine Mercier (Université d’Artois), « Mise en scène, incarnation et dramaturgie de la vie microscopique : projections des gamètes mâles sur les scènes du théâtre de Romeo Castellucci »

– Alison Humphrey (York University), “Embodying the Uncanny in Shadowpox: The Cytokine Storm

– Tarsh Bates (Umeå University), “Microbial sense-ability: olfactory art, metabolism and queer microperformativity”

Organisers: Liliane Campos (Sorbonne Nouvelle), François-Joseph Lapointe (Université de Montréal) and Kirsten E. Shepherd-Barr (Oxford University)

This events is part of the BioCriticism project (https://biocriticism.hypotheses.org/), supported by the Sorbonne Nouvelle, the Institut Universitaire de France and the FMSH “Biohumanities” programme.

BIOCRITICISM webinar – 8th of March -“Tiny New World : French Visual Culture and the Microbial Imaginary since the Early Twentieth Century”

“Tiny New World : French Visual Culture and the Microbial Imaginary since the Early Twentieth Century”

8th of March 2024, 2 pm CET

Speaker: Dr. Fleur Hopkins-Loféron (CNRS and THALIM laboratory, Sorbonne Nouvelle University)

Respondent: Prof. Kirsten Shepherd-Barr (University of Oxford)

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84056711478?pwd=ekZyODVXYkdETXZRb3gyRU1kc3V3dz09

Meeting ID: 840 5671 1478
Passcode: 529273

Abstract: From the beginning of the 20th century, the French media imagination was struck by what was called the “microbial fury”, in the wake of Louis Pasteur. Microbes were everywhere, in the form of “love microbes” or “jealousy microbes” in vaudeville plays, as the main character in novels of scientific imagination or as a decorative element in Art Nouveau wallpapers. By presenting the rich multiform imaginary of the microbe in the twentieth century, in the visual and intellectual culture of the time (invader, tiny beauty, miniature world, chimera, monster, etc.), this talk intends to question the metamorphosis that this mysterious being has undergone over time (ally, individual, source of life, etc.). Particular emphasis will be placed on the visual cultures of the sublime, miniaturisation and the infinitely small.

Fleur Hopkins-Loféron is a postdoctoral researcher at the CNRS (UMR THALIM). Her work focuses on the points of contact between scientific imagination, history of science and technology, and the occult. Her thesis focused on early French science fiction, and in particular the merveilleux-scientifique movement (Voir l’invisible. Histoire visuelle du mouvement merveilleux-scientifique (1909-1930), Champ Vallon, 2023). Her most recent research studies the success of a form of fakirism à la française in Paris in the 1930s (Fakir. De l’Homme de Douleur au gourou, PUF, 2024). She is also the editor of the “Fantascope” collection, published by L’Arbre Vengeur, which is dedicated to the re-publication of tales of the scientific imagination. A regular contributor to La Septième Obsession and Les Cahiers de la BD, as well as artistic adviser to Le Dessous des images on Arte, she explores popular culture in all its forms (Mercredi. Icône gothique, Les Impressions Nouvelles, 2023). 

Kirsten E Shepherd-Barr is Professor of English and Theatre Studies at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Oxford.  Her books include Theatre and Evolution from Ibsen to Beckett (2015), Science on Stage:  From Dr Faustus to Copenhagen (2006), and theCambridge Companion to Theatre and Science (2020). She is also co-author, with Hannah Simpson, of two recent articles on theatrical engagements with climate change.

BIOCRITICISM webinar 2024 – the programme is online!

I’m delighted to announce the BioCriticism webinar programme for 2024. We meet on zoom at 2pm CET. Please contact me or check this page for the zoom links closer to the date. Abstracts are available here.

BioCriticism 2024 – “Through the microscope”

  • 2d of February 2024: “Microbiology in the Twentieth-Century Novel”

Speaker: Dr. Patrick Armstrong (Cambridge University)

Respondent: Dr. Sarah Bouttier (Ecole Polytechnique)

  • 8th of March 2024:  “Tiny New World : French Visual Culture and the Microbial Imaginary since the Early Twentieth Century”

Speaker: Dr. Fleur Hopkins-Loféron (CNRS and THALIM laboratory, Sorbonne Nouvelle University)

Respondent: Prof. Kirsten Shepherd-Barr (University of Oxford)

  • 26th of April 2024: “The Biomolecularisation of the Archive”

Speaker: Prof. Jerome de Groot (University of Manchester)

Respondent: Prof. François-Joseph Lapointe (Université de Montréal)

  • 24th of May 2024: “Books of Life in the Age of the Genome”

Speaker: Dr. Paul Hamann-Rose (University of Passau)

Respondent: Dr. Rūta Šlapkauskaitė (Vilnius University)

extended deadline – CFP “Microscopic Life in 20th- and 21st-Century Performance” (Paris, 15/03/24)

In 1932, on the stage of Boston’s Colonial Theatre, a human-sized bacterium complained to the audience that its human host had infected it with measles. Through this very human voice, George Bernard Shaw’s new play Too True to be Good gave a comical take on biology which reversed the perspective from the human to the microbial. Its appearance was brief, but Shaw’s talking microbe anticipated the emergence and foregrounding of microscopic actors in contemporary performance, and many of the questions raised by their appearance. Are our relations to other scales inevitably mimetic? Can we see microscopic agency without anthropomorphizing it, or the microscopic scale without colonizing it? How does biology trouble the expected roles of humans and nonhumans? And how are the categories of actor, actant or plot renewed and transformed by living microscopic processes?

Following a first symposium on literature and the microscopic organised in November 2023, this symposium will ask how 20th and 21st-century performance has engaged with invisible microscopic life. We define performance as a broad spectrum of artistic work that includes living exhibits and installations, as well as the staging of dramatic or post-dramatic work. Building on recent conceptualizations of microperformativity (Hauser & Strecker, 2020), this symposium will focus specifically on artworks that involve forms of microscopic life, such as microbes and microbiomes, or living microscopic processes, such as DNA transcription, as actors and collaborators. We ask how these actors affect agency, which shifts away from the human actor towards multi-species and multi-scalar collectives; temporality, which extends over new timescales and requires new forms of stage management and curatorial work; and relationality, where artworks involving microscopic living entities raise new ethical and biopolitical issues.

We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers in English or French, and encourage speakers to explore the following topics:

– key moments and turning-points in the performance of microscopic life over the 20th and 21st centuries

– technological and non-technological engagements with microscopic life

– the epistemic dimensions of performance aesthetics

– the role of performance in changing scopic paradigms, or moving beyond scopic paradigms towards other sensory modes of knowledge

– the ethical and political dimensions of performance involving microscopic life

– the conceptual shifts provoked by microscopic life, around notions such as community, agency, self, individual or environment

– how microscopic life affects categories such as actor, agent, plot, character, spectator, creator, collaborator, author

– the reception of performance involving microscopic life, and evolving relations to audiences

– relations between popular science and performance

– transformations of critical terminology and theoretical frameworks in reaction to microscopic life

Proposals should be sent in Word or PDF documents by the 24th of November 2023 to the organisers: 

liliane.campos@sorbonne-nouvelle.fr

francois-joseph.lapointe@umontreal.ca,

kirsten.shepherd-barr@ell.ox.ac.uk

Answers will be sent out by the end of November. The symposium will take place at the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris on 15/03/2024, with the support of FMSH Biohumanities programme (https://www.fmsh.fr/projets/biohumanities), the Institut Universitaire de France, and the BioCriticism project (https://biocriticism.hypotheses.org/).

CFP “Microscopic Life in 20th- and 21st-Century Performance” (Paris, 15/03/24)

In 1932, on the stage of Boston’s Colonial Theatre, a human-sized bacterium complained to the audience that its human host had infected it with measles. Through this very human voice, George Bernard Shaw’s new play Too True to be Good gave a comical take on biology which reversed the perspective from the human to the microbial. Its appearance was brief, but Shaw’s talking microbe anticipated the emergence and foregrounding of microscopic actors in contemporary performance, and many of the questions raised by their appearance. Are our relations to other scales inevitably mimetic? Can we see microscopic agency without anthropomorphizing it, or the microscopic scale without colonizing it? How does biology trouble the expected roles of humans and nonhumans? And how are the categories of actor, actant or plot renewed and transformed by living microscopic processes?

Following a first symposium on literature and the microscopic organised in November 2023, this symposium will ask how 20th and 21st-century performance has engaged with invisible microscopic life. We define performance as a broad spectrum of artistic work that includes living exhibits and installations, as well as the staging of dramatic or post-dramatic work. Building on recent conceptualizations of microperformativity (Hauser & Strecker, 2020), this symposium will focus specifically on artworks that involve forms of microscopic life, such as microbes and microbiomes, or living microscopic processes, such as DNA transcription, as actors and collaborators. We ask how these actors affect agency, which shifts away from the human actor towards multi-species and multi-scalar collectives; temporality, which extends over new timescales and requires new forms of stage management and curatorial work; and relationality, where artworks involving microscopic living entities raise new ethical and biopolitical issues.

We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers in English or French, and encourage speakers to explore the following topics:

– key moments and turning-points in the performance of microscopic life over the 20th and 21st centuries

– technological and non-technological engagements with microscopic life

– the epistemic dimensions of performance aesthetics

– the role of performance in changing scopic paradigms, or moving beyond scopic paradigms towards other sensory modes of knowledge

– the ethical and political dimensions of performance involving microscopic life

– the conceptual shifts provoked by microscopic life, around notions such as community, agency, self, individual or environment

– how microscopic life affects categories such as actor, agent, plot, character, spectator, creator, collaborator, author

– the reception of performance involving microscopic life, and evolving relations to audiences

– relations between popular science and performance

– transformations of critical terminology and theoretical frameworks in reaction to microscopic life

Proposals should be sent in Word or PDF documents by the 5th of November 2023 to the organisers: 

liliane.campos@sorbonne-nouvelle.fr

francois-joseph.lapointe@umontreal.ca,

kirsten.shepherd-barr@ell.ox.ac.uk

Answers will be sent out by the end of November. The symposium will take place at the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris on 15/03/2024, with the support of FMSH Biohumanities programme (https://www.fmsh.fr/projets/biohumanities), the Institut Universitaire de France, and the BioCriticism project (https://biocriticism.hypotheses.org/).

Epigenetic Poetics

Please join our next webinar to discuss epigenetic poetics. Dr. Lara Choksey will speak about “Epigenetics’ vague poetics”, examining writing by Georges Canguilhem and Albert Camus. Her respondent will be Prof. Susan M. Squier.

BioCriticism – 9th June 2023 – 2 pm CET

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81456501056?pwd=bW1pY0oyWE9mdEFJN0FzWHROSEYrQT09

Meeting ID: 814 5650 1056
Passcode: 980878

Lara Choksey: “Epigenetics’ Vague Poetics”

Abstract: An epigenetic puzzle tends to emerge in attempts to be precise about why, where, how, and to whom the environment matters in human development, and what kinds of shock produce epigenetic effects. What is “the environment” in epigenetics? How to calculate influences that alter, affect, and surround the genome? What counts as a shock to the system, and is it possible to know, with certainty, that these shocks are unanticipated? Jenny Reardon has suggested that in approaching these questions, “poetics may matter more than principles.” This paper considers the atmospheres of war that have shaped contemporary versions of what is loosely and variously called “the postgenomic”, focusing on Georges Canguilhem’s writing on the boundary between normal and pathological between 1943 and 1963, and Albert Camus’s La peste (1947). In these texts, responding to catastrophic circumstances produces a vague poetics of atmosphere, shifting the traditional opposition between organism and environment to decision-making and milieu-making.

Dr Lara Choksey is Lecturer in Colonial and Postcolonial Literatures at University College London, where she is also Associate Faculty in the UCL Sarah Parker Remond Centre for the Study of Racism and Racialisation. She researches the interplay of science, technology, critical race and postcolonial studies, and sociological realism in literature. She has published articles and chapters on epidemiological plots and national syndromes, on precision medicine and poetry, and on colonialism and climate change in speculative fiction. Her monograph, Narrative in the Age of the Genome (Bloomsbury 2021), considers measures of the human in genomic narratives.

Prof Susan M. Squier is Brill Professor Emerita of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and English at Pennsylvania State University. She is the co-author of Graphic Medicine Manifesto (2015) and of PathoGraphics: Narrative, Aesthetic, Contention, Community (Penn State University Press, 2020), and the author (among other works) of Epigenetic Landscapes: Drawing as Metaphor (2017), Poultry Science, Chicken Culture: A Partial Alphabet (2011), Liminal Lives: Imagining the Human at the Frontier of Biomedicine (2004), and Babies in Bottles: Twentieth-Century Visions of Reproductive Technology (1994). Squier is Emeritus Board Member of the Graphic Medicine International Collective, whose mission is to guide and support the uses of comics in health, and co-editor of the Graphic Medicine book series at Penn State University Press.

Call for papers : “Microscopic Imaginaries in 20th- and 21st-Century Literature” (Paris, 24/11/23)

When Ronald Ross discovered the protozoan responsible for malaria in 1897, he wrote a poem addressing “million-murdering Death” whose “cunning seeds” he had found. Ross’s poem remains famous, but how has his hope that art and science would walk “hand in hand” fared in the following centuries? Over the 20th century, microscopy was revolutionised by UV, phase contrast, and electron technology. The circulation of microscopic images increased exponentially with the arrival of television, internet and digital photography. While visualisations of atomic physics were influential for modernist writers, genetic engineering and microbial agency have become key ingredients of 21st-century crime fiction and science fiction, as well as inspirations for ecopoetry, molecular poetics and experiments in living poetry. This symposium aims to identify the microscopic imaginaries that appeared over this period, and the turning points that structured literature’s engagement with microscopy. We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers in English, on any written literary genre, particularly around the following topics:

– the epistemic dimensions of literary form

– the aesthetics of scale

– the role of literature in changing scopic regimes

– ethical and political dimensions of microscopic imaginaries

– conceptual shifts provoked by microscopic perspectives, around notions such as community, agency, subject, or environment

– relations between microscopic imaginaries and movements such as modernism, naturalism or new materialism

– authorial postures and reader expectations created by microscopic perspectives

– relations between scientific imagination, popular science imagination and literary imagination

 – how scientific and literary discourses have shaped each other over this period 

Proposals should be sent in Word or PDF documents by the 31st of May 2023 to the organisers: liliane.campos@sorbonne-nouvelle.frcaroline.pollentier@sorbonne-nouvelle.frsarah.montin@sorbonne-nouvelle.fr and sarah.bouttier@polytechnique.edu

Answers will be sent out by the 9th of June. The symposium will be held at the Sorbonne Nouvelle, Maison de la Recherche, 4 rue des Irlandais, in Paris. A second symposium will be organized in 2024 on microscopicimaginaries in theatre and performance: a separate call for papers will be issued for that event. 

Performing Microbiomes – April 21st

Please join our next webinar to discuss microbiology in performance and installation art. Professor François-Joseph Lapointe will present his artistic work inspired by microbiome research. His respondent will be Doctor Eric Bapteste.

BioCriticism – 21st April 2023 – 2 pm CET

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84636633099?pwd=STVWMEwyT3l2b3REeUVzNXkwNFJvdz09

Meeting ID: 846 3663 3099

Passcode: 192264

François-Joseph Lapointe: “Me, myself and my microbiome”

Abstract: My current scientific research focuses on the microbiome of endangered animal species, the transmission of the microbiome from mother to her newborn during a cesarean delivery, or even on the necrobiome of decomposing corpses for forensic purposes. Quite naturally, my practice of bioart has followed this trend by integrating bacteria into my artworks and performances. If the discovery of the human microbiome has revolutionized the way philosophers define our species, it has also upset the concept of identity. If it is true that the majority of our cells are not human cells, how are we still human? What remains of Homo sapiens? As an artist, my approach questions the limits of our own flesh in constant interaction with the bacterial world that surrounds us. Is my microbiome affected by my behaviors? Does my microbiome change based on the people I meet? How does this microbiome transform my relationship to the outside world? Who am I without my microbiome? As part of experimental performances or performative experimentation, I collect microbiome samples in order to show all the diversity attesting to the perpetual transformation of my bacterial identity. In more recent projects, I produce installation pieces using microbiome samples collected on others.

François-Joseph Lapointe is a bio-artist and professor of biological sciences at the Université de Montréal. He holds a PhD in evolutionary biology and a PhD in danse and performance. For his scientific research, he is interested in phylogenetics, systematics, metagenomics and population genetics. His artistic work uses biotechnology for creative purposes, and has been exhibited at the Musée de la civilisation (Québec), the Transmediale festival (Berlin), the SciArt Center (New York), the Ars Electronica Center (Linz), the Medical Museion (Copenhagen), the Science Gallery (London) and the Centre Pompidou (Paris).

Dr. Eric Bapteste is a CNRS Research Director at the Université Pierre et Marie Curie. He holds a PhD in evolutionary biology and a PhD in the philosophy of biology. He co-directs the AIRE team, which develops new methods and new concepts, in particular related to networks, in order to study evolution and ageing. His publications include Les gènes voyageurs : l’odyssée de l’évolution (Belin), Conflits intérieurs : fable scientifique (Editions Matériologiques), Tous entrelacés ! Des gènes aux super-organismes, les réseaux de l’évolution (Belin), and two books for young readers: Tout se transforme ! Comment marche l’évolution (Circonflexe) and Le monde surprenant des microbes (Circonflexe).

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