Decodings Fall 2013


Newsletter of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts                               

Fall 2013, Vol. 22, No.3

*SLSA 2014 in Dallas: “Fluid”

*SLSA 2013 at the University of Notre Dame

*Travel Awards, Essay Prizes, Book Prize

*Nominations for 2nd VP and Member-at-large
*SLSA EU: New Contact Information
*Call for Graduate Student Liaisons to Executive Committee

SLSA CONFERENCE 2014: Southern Methodist University, Dallas

The 28th Annual Meeting will be held at the Sheraton Dallas, October 8-12, 2014

THEME: “Fluid”                      


Site Organizer: Rajani Sudan

Program Committee Chair: Robert Markley   Member: Pamela Gossin

For this year’s conference, we encourage presentations, papers, and artworks that explore fluid as a word, idea, and process applied to borderlands, canvases (and other media in other art forms), philosophical indeterminacies, or dynamic systems. See the enclosed Call for Papers and the conference website for more details.

The 27th Annual Meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts, October 3–6, 2013, was sponsored by the University of Notre Dame. Site organizer Laura Walls provided this statement:

This October’s SLSA 2013 conference at Notre Dame pursued the theme of “PostNatural,” and featured an art exhibit (curated by Maria Tomasula) with thirty multi-media works, several screenings in the Digital Visualization Theater, an experimental play by the Padua Players, and over 120 conference sessions. The dovetailing of the two plenary lectures, the first by the artist, scientist, and activist Subkankar Banerjee and the second by the literary scholar and critical theorist Timothy Morton, was indicative of the range of the questions taken up by the sessions: Banerjee’s talk, “Long Environmentalism,” opened the lens of environmental thought to deep time and planetary change registered in the lives of circumpolar indigenous humans and nonhumans; Morton’s talk, “Weird Essentialism,” was a manifesto for re-grounding philosophy in “weirdness” as the condition of material existence. The goal of the conference was to ask what tools SLSA could bring to the planetary emergency which is global warming. No doubt every one of the nearly 400 attendees came away with a different answer, but clearly SLSA is one key site where the Anthropocene is finding a way to articulate its weird looping of humans and nonhumans, as each finds itself within the other under the long shadow of the future.


After introducing new Executive Committee members-at-large Jim Housefield, Assistant Professor in the Department of Design at University of California at Davis and Jenell Johnson, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, President Laura Otis opened the business meeting and offered the following President’s Report:

It means a great deal to me today to be standing before you as President of SLSA. I welcome all of you, especially those who are coming to SLSA for the first time. I hope you will find in this meeting an inspiring, supportive network of minds that will help you to create exciting work.

Before we get down to business, I would like to offer some perspective on what SLSA is, has been, and can be. Since I attended my first conference as a graduate student in 1988 (the unforgettable Albany meeting), I have experienced SLSA as an enabling and nurturing base of friendships. When SLSA began in the mid-1980s, many of us were the geeks, freaks, nerds, and weirdos of our departments. Gillian Beer and Kate Hayles were reading literature and science in parallel, but in most literature departments, it was a rather shocking thing to do. People tended to get tenure in spite of it rather than because of it, and meetings of the then Society for Literature and Science were our only place to bond with others like ourselves. The situation was even worse for scientists who wanted to study literature—at that time, publishing essays on novels could undermine their reputations as serious researchers.

But as in the narratives we love, the nerds triumphed in the end. Research that compares scientific, artistic, and literary creativity is now celebrated, even expected—at least, relative to the days of LP’s, shoulder pads, and big hair. Accordingly, the role of SLSA is shifting from pioneering to leadership, and I have confidence that the cerebral energy in this room can help guide and support young scholars for whom combining science and the arts is like breathing.

I trust this group to lead because in my 25 years in SLSA, I have observed our open-mindedness and willingness to embrace new fields of learning as they emerge. The decision to include artists in the society and the work of Marcel O’Gorman, Dennis Summers, and many others to make art exhibits part of SLSA meetings have expanded our understanding of what new knowledge can be. I have always looked forward to SLSA meetings as a place of learning and of the high-speed evolution of thought and language, as chaos theory morphed to non-linear dynamics, and then to complexity. It has helped all of us to embrace the ideas emerging from media theory, digital scholarship, eco-criticism, and animal studies, about what it means to be alive on this planet and to build meaningful knowledge. We are a youthful society—in our bodies and/or in our spirits—if youth can be taken to mean excitement about intellectual change. We are nerds who excite one another, and we are nerds who dance.

Before I get carried away, I would like to thank Laura Walls, Ron Broglio, Notre Dame University, and everyone on the support team who has made this conference possible. I hope that some of the people new to SLSA will be inspired enough by this conference to consider helping to plan a meeting in the future—it is a labor of love. And now, on to business. 

Financial Statement: Carol Colatrella presented the annual financial statement, including membership statistics, a list of donors, and the names of those individuals awarded travel subsidies to attend the meeting. The society has approximately $134,000 in its accounts as of September 30, 2013.

Configurations Editors: Melissa Littlefield and Rajani Sudan reported that since January 2013 they had coordinated review of more than one hundred submissions (41 submitted before their becoming editors and 65 new ones) and that the average turn-around time from when they receive a submission to when an author hears whether it is accepted or not is about two months. Melissa and Rajani thanked Bob Markley and Ron Schleifer for their work on the journal and acknowledged the contributions of Book Review Editor Allison Dushane and Editorial Assistants Matt Adamson (UIUC) and Katie Bakenau (SMU). The journal editors have asked members interested in reviewing articles for the journal to email them at

Publications Committee: Members Ron Schleifer, Susan Squier, and Anne Pollock and VP Robert Markley will investigate establishing a new SLSA book series with a press.

Electronic Resources Coordinator:  Send suggestions for additional content for the website to Wayne Miller at Wayne will be supervising a designer updating the website in the coming months.

2013 Travel Awards: SLSA provides a limited number of travel awards for underfunded individuals attending the annual conference. In 2013, the following members received $200 subventions funded by member donations: Steven Allen, Nadine Boljkovac, Christina Colvin, Justin Derry, Bradley Fest, Cheryl Fish, Julian Gill-Peterson, Abby Goode, Clarissa Ai Ling Lee, Heather Latimer, Ajitpaul Mangat, Beatrice Marovich, Kari Nixon, Jason Price, Helen Pritchard, Lindsay Thomas, Erica Carol Tom, Timothy Welsh, and Derek Woods.

2014 Travel Awards Members of SLSA who present at the annual conference may apply for travel subventions to the 2014 meeting. An applicant should email name, title of SLSA presentation, an indication of how long one has been a member of SLSA, and any information about funding for the conference to the Executive Director at by August 1. Please provide estimated travel expenses and the amount of support (if any) anticipated from other sources. If you have received travel support from SLSA in the past, please include information about that support (when and how much). SLSA officers will review applications and approve funds for as many as our budget permits; preference will be given to students and those most in need. Each person awarded funds will be presented with a check for $200 at the conference business meeting.

2013 Bruns Essay Prize
Patrick Jagoda, the University of Chicago, served as the judge for the Bruns Prize. The pool of graduate student essays for this year’s Bruns Essay Prize competition was strong. The submissions came from a broad range of talented media artist-theorists, science studies scholars, literary critics, and historians of science. The winning essay is Aleksandra Hernandez’s “William Carlos Williams’s Spring and All  and the Poetics of Noise.” This piece recasts Williams’ poetic understanding of the imagination as media theory. Turning to the work of media scholars such as Marshall McLuhan, Friedrich Kittler, and Siegfried Zielinski, Hernandez reflects extensively on the materiality of Williams’s 1923 volume of prose and free verse, Spring and All . Throughout the essay, Hernandez bases her reading practice most closely on Katherine Hayles’s Writing Machines — a text that, like Williams’ poetry, foregrounds its own materiality in relationship to its objects of analysis. She argues that, for Williams, imagination is not an anthropocentric figure of human volition or emotion but rather itself an embodied animate being or, in another sense, a medium. In a rich text that moves across numerous poetic and media theoretical texts, from Emerson’s “The Sphinx” to Michel Serres’s The Parasite, Hernandez embraces a transdisciplinarity that blurs boundaries between literary and philosophical discourses. The essay makes a confident and creative contribution to the study of modernism and to new media theory.

2014 Bruns Graduate Essay Prize, in honor of Edward F. Bruns, is awarded annually to the best essay written by a graduate student member of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts. Graduate students wishing to have their essays considered for the $500 prize should submit them by August 1 to N. Katherine Hayles, Department of English, Duke University, via electronic mail to Please send a copy of your formatted essay as a PDF or Word file, or send a pointer to a URL where the essay is posted.

2013 Schachterle Prize
Bradley Fest’s essay “The Inverted Nuke in the Garden: Archival Emergence and Anti-Eschatology in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest,boundary 2 39, no. 3 (Fall 2012): 125-149, was awarded the 2013 Schachterle Essay Prize. Carol Colatrella read the commendation provided by judges Blake Leland and Jenell Johnson: “Fest’s reading of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest presents the post-modern novel and that particular American post-modern novel, as a textual exploration of a kind of cultural/formal fission or fusion that is very much in play in our densely and extensively networked contemporary world. Wallace’s novel is seen in terms of a nuclear trope, a trope that represents contemporary culture as well. Fest’s argument about the text is convincing, and his claims are convincingly linked to the text itself in a sustained and logical fashion. The link between the textual trope and the nuke-bearing culture that fostered is interestingly and plausibly proposed.”
Rebekah Sheldon’s essay “Form / Matter / Chora” (Accepted for Publication in The Nonhuman Turn, forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press) was awarded an honorable mention. The essay looks carefully at work in Object Oriented Ontology and Feminist New Materialism and considers why these two fields remain at a distance. To force a confrontation between the two, Sheldon argues for a strategy of what she calls “choratic reading.” Her argument asks scholars to consider how “acts of literature . . . including scholarly readings . . . are performed in material composition with the affordances of their media.” Beautifully written and elegantly argued, Sheldon’s essay offers a significant contribution to the studies of literature and science.

2014 Schachterle Essay Prize: Lance Schachterle, founding president of the society, established an annual prize of $250 in honor of his parents to recognize the best new essay on literature and science written in English by a non-tenured scholar. Eligible authors wishing to submit essays (published or accepted for publication) should send them prior to August 1 to SLSA’s Executive Director, Carol Colatrella, LMC, Georgia Institute of Technology via electronic mail to Please send a copy of your formatted essay as a PDF or Word file, or send a pointer to a URL where the essay is posted.

Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts Michelle Kendrick Memorial Book Prize
Catherine Belling’s A Condition of Doubt: The Meaning of Hypochrondria (Oxford University Press, 2012) won the 2013 Michelle Kendrick Memorial Book Prize. Judges Lucinda Cole and Ron Schleifer provided the following commendation: “In this engagingly written book, Catherine Belling examines hypochondria in relation to biology, medicine, culture, and narrative.The Condition of Doubt offers a power history of hypochrondria, a counter-history to the Cartesian quest for certainty. It also suggests strategies, growing from literary studies, to make the case of illness and suffering more perspicacious, efficient, and compassionate.”

The 2014 Michelle Kendrick Memorial Book Prize will be awarded to the best academic book on literature, science, and the arts published by an SLSA member. The prize will be announced at the 2014 SLSA conference. Established in fall 2006 in memory of Michelle Kendrick of Washington State University-Vancouver, an energetic, well-loved scholar of literature and science and long-time member of SLSA, the Kendrick Prize is open to any book of original scholarship on literature, science, and the arts published between January 1 and December 31 of the prior year. The winner will receive $250.00. To be considered for this year’s Kendrick Prize, please send three copies of your book by June 1 to: Professor Robert Markley, Department of English, 608 South Wright Street, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801.

Donations for the Kendrick Prize (checks made out to SLSA, with Kendrick Prize in memo) can be sent to: Carol Colatrella, SLSA Executive Director, LCC, Georgia Tech, 686 Cherry Street, Atlanta, GA 30332-0165


Note: all of the awards described above are presented during the Business Meeting of the annual fall conference. One may submit only one entry to one of the two essay prize competitions.

SLSA Lifetime Achievement Award
, presented by President Laura Otis to Katherine Hayles
On behalf of SLSA, I am delighted to present Kate Hayles with our award for a career of outstanding achievement in Literature, Science, and the Arts. I have known Kate Hayles ever since we attacked an abandoned cake together in Albany at the 1988 meeting, and for 25 years I have been grateful for her warmth and generosity as a mentor. Many people in this room have benefited from the initiative she has taken in founding, maintaining, and fighting for the field in which we now work. Only someone with powerful intelligence, real-world political savvy, and a sense of humor could have done this.

As numerous nominators have attested, Kate Hayles’s prodigious body of work, in books ranging from The Cosmic Web in 1984 to the field-changing How We Became Posthuman in 1999, to her most recent book, How We Think in 2012 all point to a scholar whose thinking not only epitomizes the values of interdisciplinary scholarship to which the SLSA is dedicated, but made many of the terms that guide this scholarship possible in the first place. Kate Hayles is one of the most important scholars working in the interdisciplinary study of literature, science and the arts today, and has been for decades.

Her commitment to SLSA has been crucial to its formation and success: in addition to serving as a founding member of the organization and its president from 1991-93, she co-organized and hosted the conference at UCLA in 1995,served on the organization’s Executive Board, and also served on the Advisory Board of Configurations, a journal to which she has contributed.

Kate has not only been a role model for scholars wanting to think about science, literature, art, and media at the same time, but she has been a generous mentor and warm supporter of graduate students in SLSA.The Bruns Prize that she established and continues to fund is an emblem of her overall generosity toward young researchers.

Kate is the gold standard for thoughtful research and mentoring. She is the consummate scholar/teacher, as evidenced by her frequent, fruitful collaborations with her advisees. It would be difficult to find someone to equal her dedication in nurturing nascent careers.

Please join me in expressing our gratitude to Kate Hayles, who continues to set the standard for creative thinking, writing, and teaching about literature, science, and the arts.

SLSA Lifetime Achievement Award: The SLSA Executive Committee each spring appoints a committee to seek and review nominations for the SLSA Lifetime Achievement award. Members of this committee include a former President of SLSA, who will serve as chair, one currently serving member at large, and one other SLSA member. The Lifetime Achievement Awards Committee will send out an announcement asking members to nominate candidates whose significant, interdisciplinary scholarship is exemplary of SLSA. The committee members will nominate candidates and should collaborate on reviewing nominations from the membership to select a recipient of the award or to decide not to make an award for that year. The Lifetime Achievement award will be presented at the business meeting of the annual meeting. This year’s Lifetime Achievement award committee will be chaired by Hugh Crawford ( and includes Suzanne Black and Susan Squier.

SLSA Nomination Committee: Send nominations for 2nd VP and member-at-large position on the Executive Committee to Bruce Clarke at  For more information about these positions, you may consult the SLSA bylaws: The deadline for nominations is January 31, 2014. Please send along with your self-nomination one paragraph, a short personal narrative that specifies your intellectual interests and describes your vision for the society. From nominations received, the committee will select two candidates for both open positions.

CALL FOR GRADUATE STUDENTS INTERESTED IN VOLUNTEERING AS LIAISONS WITH THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE: Interested in working with the SLSA executive committee? Graduate student roles include contributing content to the website, offering ideas for conference planning, and supplying bibliographical citations. You can also develop mechanisms for publicizing SLSA to your colleagues. Student volunteers work with executive committee members and conference organizers on these or other initiatives. Graduate students interested in serving as liaisons to the Executive Committee should email

SLSA WRAP-UP SESSION (Thanks to Janine DeBaise for taking notes!)

The idea of having graduate student representative on the Executive Committee was greeted warmly. Send nominations to Bruce Clarke ( of graduate students who are interested in assisting the society with its publications, bibliography, conference, and who will offer their perpectives on policy.

Many thanks to Laura Walls, Ron Broglio, and Maria Tomasula for all the work they did to organize the conference.

Art exhibition: Maria Tomasula talked about the fact that a year is not very much lead time for planning an art exhibition. For example, the gallery on campus was booked three years ahead of time, but they found other space for us. We need to secure locations for art in advance of the conference, and we need to consider factors such as shipping the artwork, temperature control for storing the art, and guarding the art while it’s being exhibited. Shipping art is expensive, and there is always the risk of damage or things getting lost in transit. Keeping costs in mind, we need to work with local artists whenever possible.

Notre Dame: Several people commented on the immense generosity of Notre Dame. An open bar every night! The food was great, even for vegetarians. The support was amazing. Everyone expressed thanks to the local people who arranged the conference. If you would like to thank Notre Dame for their support, send the letter to Laura Dassow Walls (, and she will forward it to the appropriate people.

Schedule:  Ron Broglio noted that the program was more relaxed this year. We did panels at 9 am, instead of at 8:30 am, and 9:30 on Sunday. We had only one panel on Sunday instead of two. We put half an hour between sessions to leave room for conversations. We included Pop-up sessions during lunch as a different venue for thinking. We wanted to have fewer concurrent sessions, but that would meaning turning people away.

Richard Nash: It’s a big program. Perhaps we should limit people to one presentation.

We want to keep the organization friendly to grad students and newcomers.

Other comments about the program: Loved the streams. Loved how panels fit together so beautifully.

Richard:  We need to come up with better ways to involve more people. Roundtables instead of the traditional three-person panel. We need to create spaces for people who aren’t reading a paper. Newcomers can be asked to serve as chair or respondent. We need to build volunteer opportunities into the submission form. Build a bank of possible chairs.

Laura Walls: We have 93 tags for people who didn’t show up. That’s too many. Those are spaces that could have been filled by people who wanted to be here. We need a confirmation step, where people register or get taken off the program.

Dennis Summers (the art liaison): Lead-time is an issue for artists. It would help to know the theme as soon as possible. If it’s at all possible, a three-year lead time would be great. Maria did a fantastic job with the art exhibition.

We discussed the possibility of a digital archive – for presentations that aren’t papers. Perhaps we could test drive this with one stream next year.

New artist: As an artist new to this organization, I felt welcomed. Art is treated seriously and well-integrated. The tech ran well.

Another artist: The tech people here were fantastic.

The process for vetting art for the conference: Talks are vetted the same way that other panel submissions are. The local host chooses a curator for the exhibit. It was a juried show. Space for certain large pieces was a constraint.

Book exhibit: The optimal space for the book exhibit is wherever the coffee and food are.

Dennis: We keep talking about how we need to get more scientists to come to SLSA. Since having an art liaison has worked to bring in artists, maybe we need a science liaison. Perhaps we need a scientist to do the keynote and bring in local scientists.


The European Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts (SLSAeu) fosters inter- and trans-disciplinary exchange between the arts, sciences, medicine and technology. The Society welcomes practitioners from the arts, including curatorial studies, sciences, the humanities and social sciences. SLSAeu has grown out of the US SLSA and has staged a biennial international conference since 2000 in major European cities. Contact information:

Dr. Manuela Rossini, SLSA Europe, c/o Department of English, University of Basel, Nadelberg 6, CH-4051 Basel, Switzerland OR email:

EUROPEAN SOCIETY FOR LITERATURE, SCIENCE, AND THE ARTS, from Cristina Iuli, the Chair of the local Organizing Committee for the 8th SLSA-EU Conference, “Life, in Theory.” This meeting will take place June 3-6, 2014, in Turin, Italy: I am happy to announce that our Web site is now up at Our call for papers may be found there. We would be grateful if you could please circulate this information widely.Our plenary speakers are Claire Colebrook, Roberto Esposito, Giuseppe Testa, Paolo Vineis, and Cary Wolfe –leading scholars in political philosophy, critical theory, epidemiology, stem cell genetics, media theory, and literary and culture studies.

Three round tables and six parallel streams will provide ample occasions for exchange and discussion across science, literature, and the arts. Our round table invitees and stream convenors are Yves Abrioux, Monika Bakke, Ivan Callus, Timothy Campbell, Bruce Clarke, Sandra D’Alfonso, Umberto Dianzani, Marc Hansen, Jens Hauser, Stefan Herbrechter, Erich Hörl, Cristina Iuli, Najeeb Jan, Gregg Lambert, Maurizio Mori, Mario Pirisi, Manuela Rossini, Dorion Sagan, Davide Tarizzo, Stefania Sini, and Louise Whiteley.

Please visit our Web site at and submit a paper proposal. Your European colleagues look forward to seeing you this summer in Turin.

SLSA CONTRIBUTORS TO BIBLIOGRAPHY NEEDED: Bibliographers Sue Hagedorn and Jennifer Rhee ask for additional contributors. Contact Jenni Rhee at

RENEWING MEMBERSHIP: To join or to renew membership, please see, or call Johns Hopkins University Press Journals at 800 548 1784 (US & Canada only, all others call 410 516 6987). Mon-Fri 8-am-5pm FAX 410 516 6968. Email:

Beginning in 2013, the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts establishes an additional category of membership for individuals. You can become a Lifetime Member for $1,500. The site for membership renewals/subscriptions is

THANK YOU TO THE FOLLOWING SLSA MEMBERS WHO DONATED FUNDS IN 2013 TO PRIZES, SLSA GENERAL FUND, AND TRAVEL SUBVENTIONS: Kate Hayles, Jay Labinger, Stephen Turner, Carol Colatrella, John Hatch, Livia Monnet, Roger Rothman, Barbara Smith, Mita Choudhury, Sarah Schuetze


Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts Executive Board (2013-2014)

President: Laura Otis, Emory University

Executive Director: Carol Colatrella, Georgia Institute of Technology

First Vice-President: Robert Markley, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Second Vice-President: Ron Broglio, Arizona State University

Members-at-Large: Suzanne Black, State University of New York at Oneonta (2011-2013); Anne Pollock, Georgia Institute of Technology (2012-2014); James Housefield, University of California-Davis, Jenell Johnson, University of Wisconsin-Madison (2013-2015).

Past Presidents: Richard Nash, Indiana University; Alan Rauch, University of North Carolina-Charlotte; Bruce Clarke, Texas Tech University; Eve Keller, Fordham University; Jay Labinger, California Institute of Technology; T. Hugh Crawford, Georgia Tech; Susan Squier, Penn State; Sidney Perkowitz, Emory University; Stuart Peterfreund, Northeastern University; James J. Bono, SUNY-Buffalo; N. Katherine Hayles, Duke University; Mark Greenberg, Drexel University; Lance Schachterle, Worcester Polytechnic Institute; Stephen J. Weininger, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Configurations Editors: Melissa Littlefield, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Rajani Sudan, Southern Methodist University

Configurations Email address:

Configurations Book Review Editor: Allison DuShane, University of Arizona,

Publications Committee: Susan Squier, Penn State University; Ronald Schleifer, University of Oklahoma; Anne Pollock, Georgia Tech

Bibliographers: Sue Hagedorn, Virginia Polytechnic and State University (; Jennifer Rhee, Virginia Commonwealth University (

Electronic Resources Coordinator: Wayne Miller, Duke University (

Arts Liaison: Dennis Summers (


The Executive Director can be reached by phone at (404) 894-1241 or by e-mail at Postal address: Carol Colatrella, Executive Director, SLSA, School of Literature, Media, and Communication, Georgia Institute of Technology, 686 Cherry Street, Atlanta, GA  30332-0165


SLSA websites: and



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