Decodings Late Fall 2016


Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts Newsletter                             

Late Fall 2016, Vol. 25, No.4

*Conference Reports–SLSA 2016 with HSS & PSA, Atlanta

                                  –SLSA 2017 Arizona

*Election Results for 2nd VP and Member-at-large

*SLSA Website: Contributions welcome

*SLSA Bibliographer Needed

*AnthropoScene: SLSA Book Series


Combined Notes on SLSA 2016 Executive and Business Meetings

     President’s Report Outgoing president Bob Markley and incoming president Ron Broglio reviewed arrangements for SLSA 2017 at Arizona State. Markley explained that he organized a group of individuals who reviewed the 2015 and 2016 Kendrick book prize submissions; they have determined winners for both prizes and a short list of books that deserve to be honored.

As incoming president, Ron Broglio introduced the Executive Committee Members: recently elected 2nd Vice-President David Cecchetto, Incoming 1st Vice-P: Marcel O’Gorman, continuing Members-at-large Andrew Pilsch (who could not be present) and Rebekah Sheldon and re-elected Member-at-large Rebecca Perry.

Carol Colatrella shared the 2015-16 SLSA Financial Report.


Conference Reports:

SLSA 2016, “Creativity,” Atlanta, November 3-6, 2016, was co-sponsored by Emory University and Georgia Institute of Technology and co-located with meetings of the History of Science Society and Philosophy of Science Association in the Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel. Laura Otis (program organizer) and Carol Colatrella (site organizer) managed conference arrangements with the assistance of Emory and Georgia Tech graduate student volunteers and member Helena Feder. Otis explained that 600 submissions were accepted. 500 individuals initially agreed to be listed on the SLSA program, while 427 individuals registered for and attended the meeting.

Highlights of SLSA 2016 included plenary talks by cartoonist Darryl Cunningham and playwright Margaret Edson. Kiki Benzon, with the assistance of Dennis Summers, organized the art exhibit.  Thanks are due to her and the artists who exhibited their works: Emilie St.-Hilaire, Clea Waite, Meredith Tromble, Mark Marino and Hayley Steele, Anna Ursyn, Steven Oscherwitz, Catherine Griffiths, John Cayley, Adam Zaretsky, and Dennis Summers. Marino and Steele conducted a live action game (Thermophiles) and Adam Zaretsky demonstrated a wet lab during the evening receptions honoring the artists.

The SLSA 2017 meeting “Out of Time” will be located in Tempe, Arizona, November 9-12, 2017; the meeting is sponsored by Arizona State University, and will be organized by Ron Broglio and Adam Nocek. The call for papers for SLSA 2017 in Tempe:

On behalf of SLSAEu director Manuela Rossini, Bruce Clarke shared reports about SLSAeu 2016 (Stockholm) and 2017 (Basel). The Stockholm conference included 200 participants; the conference website is at The Call for Papers to “Empathies” in Basel is available at

Journal editors Melissa Littlefield and Rajani Sudan shared the Configurations, report, noting that 2016 is the first year they have published four issues. In forthcoming years one of the four issues will be a special issue. They reported a four-month turnaround time and invited submissions. Book review editor Jeff Karnicky indicated that approximately 13 book reviews appear in Configurations each year and invited suggestions of books to be reviewed. The editors and book review editor also called for volunteers to serve as manuscript and book reviewers and asked that members interested in reviewing manuscripts and/or books complete the survey at

At the Business Meeting, Pamela Gossin offered the Publications Committee report on behalf of the committee, which also includes Susan Squier and Ron Schleifer: Historically, the Publications Committee charge has included sharing news/updates about the status of SLSA book series and soliciting ideas for Book Panels at annual conferences that feature discussion/evaluation/critique of significant and influential books by Lit and Sci scholars who are SLSA members.

Re Book Series:  For the past several years, updates on the current book series have been directly provided by those most responsible for establishing and maintaining the series, Bob Markley and other series editors.  However, members of the Publications Comm. are always open to hearing about new ideas for additional publication opportunities or press partnerships and we wish to encourage SLSA members to contact us at anytime with such information or ideas.

Re Book Panels:  Although anyone among the general membership of SLSA may at any time organize or propose Book Panels for inclusion in the annual conference – and we very much want to encourage members to continue to do so — the Publication Committee would also like to receive suggestions/nominations for Book Panel topics/authors as well as the names of potential presenters/commentators for those panels and we would be happy to help others facilitate the organization of such panels and coordinate related sessions and/or plenary speakers.  Send any suggestions to Publication Committee members at any time between now and the close of next year’s CFP.

The Publications Comm. has been exploring ways to help Jeff Karnicky, the Book Review Editor of Configurations, clear the backlog of book reviews; we have considered the possible development of an online “graduate student book review forum.”  We would like to hear from any graduate students interested in helping to review books or set up Grad. Student-authored book review column/blog etc.

The Publication Committee is also committed to ongoing efforts to “publish” what SLSA is and does, through our affiliations with the MLA’s Forum for Science and Literature and other cooperative efforts with allied organizations with interests intersecting ours.

For MLA 2017 in Philadelphia, the MLA’s Forum for Science and Literature will be chaired by Pamela Gossin and the Forum will offer two guaranteed sessions and one co-sponsored session, all of interest to (and featuring presentations by) SLSA members:

  1. Humanities vs. STEM: Two Cultures Reboot? Featuring Cary Wolfe and others examining the (re)current rhetoric of opposition/consilience within academic, public and educational discourses, including the possibilities of STEAM, DH and the post-humanities. Presenters include: Carol Colatrella, Edward Slingerland, Josh DiCaglio and Armanda Lewis.
  2. Fiction and the Brain. Organized and chaired by Anne Stiles, will discuss literature and neurology in any time period, offering historical as well as cognitive approaches.
  3. Astrology/Astronomy as Science and Literature. Co-sponsored Session with the Forum for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies: Renaissance and Early Modern. Organized by Ralph Bauer and Pamela Gossin; presenters will explore the role of astrology and/or astronomy in the history of scientific and literary modernity from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century.

SLSA members currently serving on the MLA Forum for Science and Literature would very much like to encourage SLSA members to support SLSA-related sessions at MLA, especially the Humanities vs. STEM session, which has been placed on Sunday afternoon time slot.  If you will be at MLA, please seek out and attend our three SLSA-related sessions!

The Publications Committee would also like to receive nominations for any SLSA members who would make good MLA Forum for Science and Literature members and who would be willing to stand for election to a five-year appointment to the Executive Committee of the Forum.  Forum members are asked to commit to attending MLA during three of those five years.  This is a valuable opportunity to grow a national and international audience for SLSA-related scholarship and initiatives.

NOMINATIONS/SELF-NOMINATIONS FOR SLSA MEMBER-AT-LARGE: The 2016-17 Nomination Committee members will be Laura Otis ( and Rebekah Sheldon ( Each member-at-large serves for two years on the Executive Committee and attends the Executive Committee meeting at the annual conference. Members-at-large are consulted about issues of concern to the organization and are called on to assist with governance when necessary. Email nominations and self-nominations of candidates for member-at-large to Laura and Rebekah.

Members of the 2016-17 Lifetime Achievement Award Committee are Bob Markley ( and Suzanne Black ( Please send inquiries about requirements and nominations for the award to both.

Bibliographer’s Report: In her last meeting, Jennifer Rhee recognized current contributors to the bibliography: Shruti Desai, John Erlen, Dirk Vanderbeke, and Shriradha Geigerman. She also acknowledged Sue Hagedorn, who passed away earlier this semester. Sue worked on the bibliography, including as head bibliographer, for a number of years. We thank her for all of her contributions to this organization. Jenni will step down as head bibliographer when another member volunteers for this exciting position, which requires managing the work of the bibliographers. Please contact her at or Carol Colatrella at if you are interested. It is possible for two individuals to share the position.

Electronic Resources Coordinator’s Report: Wayne Miller thanked the members who sent syllabi and asked other members to send syllabi, conference images, and book announcements to him ( He reported that more than 1280 individuals subscribe to the litsciarts list. He is continuing to investigate meeting tools that can be used by conference organizers to receive abstracts and to develop conference programs.

SLSA-related book series AnthropoScene co-editors Bob Markley and Lucinda Cole announced that the first two books in the series are forthcoming in 2017 and that there are several manuscripts have been submitted for review. Executive Committee members agreed that the SLSA website should highlight the series.

Kate Hayles presented the 2016 Bruns Prize for the Best Essay by a Graduate Student to Michelle Huang for her essay “Ecologies of Entanglement in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” 2016 Bruns Judge Professor Melody Jue’s commendation compliments Huang’s essay, which “explores the confluence between theories of racialization in Asian American studies and feminist new materialisms, specifically through the figure of plastic. This surprising juxtaposition takes as its focal point Ruth Ozeki’s novel A Tale for the Time Being (2013), whose leitmotif is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—a formation that Huang perceptively points out is not an ‘object’ as such, but rather a ‘confluence of currents,” from which plastic particulates and other materials continually escape.. . In addition to Ozeki’s novel, Huang discusses two other texts by SF writer Ken Liu and playwright Frank Chin in order to give other examples of how plastic not only entangles, but also becomes a substance through which to articulate Asian American identity.  . . Huang’s essay adds an important voice to SLSA’s interest in the non-human and in new materialisms, by showing how plastic itself contributes to emergent conditions of racial formation. Cautioning against the forgetting of race, Huang asks us to remember that, ‘Once created, plastic’s fictions persist.’”

Carol Colatrella presented John Hay with the Schachterle Prize, founded by founding society president Lance Schachterle for the essay “A Poet of the Land: William Cullen Bryant and Moundbuilder Ecology, ”ESQ: A Journal of the American Renaissance (Fall 2015); she cited the commendation by judges Blake Leland and Jennifer Tuttle, which includes this praise: “Although widely known as a ‘fireside poet,’ William Cullen Bryant regarded himself as ‘a . . . ‘poet of the land’—a phrase that alludes not only to the nation but to nature itself. So argues John Hay in this nuanced, well-written essay. Hay’s analysis challenges the canonical vision of Bryant by attending to his “evolving ecological consciousness” in which his view of “the land” was increasingly focused on conservation or ecological restoration. Through extended consideration of ‘The Prairies’ (1833), in which Bryant engages with, and indulges in, ideological fantasies about moundbuilding cultures in North America, Hay illuminates the poet’s shift toward an environmental advocacy in which his appeals to nature must be read as not simplistically nationalistic but ecological. . . . In making a convincing case for this reconsideration of Bryant, Hay’s essay advances critical conversations on the history of American attitudes toward the natural environment and models a rethinking of the American Renaissance as a literary and social movement.”

The Michelle Kendrick Book Prize 2015 winner is Gillen D’Arcy Wood for Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World (Princeton University Press, 2014), and the 2016 winner is Stefan Helmreich for Sounding the Limits of Life: Essays in the Anthropology of Biology and Beyond (Princeton University Press, 2016). Robert Markley chaired the committee, which also short listed several books as noteworthy and valuable interdisciplinary contributions: Marcel O’Gorman, Necromedia. University of Minnesota Press, 2015; Elizabeth Wilson, Gut Feminism. Duke University Press, 2015; Adriana Craciun, Writing Artic Disaster: Authorship and Exploration. Cambridge University Press, 2016; Lucinda Cole, Imperfect Creatures: Vermin, Literature, and the Sciences of Life, 1600-1740. University of Michigan Press, 2016;
and Laura Otis, Rethinking Thought: Inside the Minds of Creative Scientists and Artists. Oxford University
Press, 2015.

Notes on SLSA Wrap Up Meeting: Approximately 28 conference presenters attended at least part of the wrap up meeting to discuss what aspects went well and what could be improved. Wrap up attendees praised the quality and amount of food at breakfast and receptions, and the Westin staff members were recognized as cheerful, helpful, and efficient. The Saturday business lunch was regarded as a nice meal, although only approximately 175 registrants were present for it. A number of members at the wrap up meeting pointed out that lunch arrangements should have been better communicated to attendees, who apparently were confused about whether they were invited to attend or whether there was an extra cost. The Saturday night dance and the band were complimented, and one attendee noted that the conference provided great value for attendees, particularly graduate students, as food was plentiful, enabling cost savings. Those presented at the wrap up meeting were asked to consider the benefits and constraints of attending the co-located meeting of SLSA, PSA, and HSS. Responses were mixed: some praised the value of sharing a meeting space, others felt that it was difficult to attend sessions in the other associations’ sessions, and some commented that participating in a co-located meeting every few years would be a good idea. (Carol Colatrella)

Panel Highlights of SLSA 2016
Everett Hamner organized “Orphan Black and Biotech, a roundtable about the BBC America show, a uniquely informed television treatment of human cloning and other biotechnologies. Following a brief overview, each speaker used a 2-3-minute video clip (often suturing multiple scenes) to launch an 8-10-minute discussion. Priscilla Wald examined the show’s treatment of gene patenting; Sherryl Vint considered its physical staging and the relationship between speculative imaginaries and the speculative finance of the biotech industry; Nathaniel Comfort analyzed the show’s historical references to the American eugenics movement; Rebecca Wilbanks drew connections between the show’s biohackers and actual DIY biology groups; Everett Hamner, the panel organizer, located the show within genetic fiction and affirmed its resistance to “biotechnological slippage”; and finally, Cosima Herter, the show’s science consultant, emphasized its attention to chance and contingency, even in subtle details of the mise en scène. Stay tuned for a possible sequel session after the show’s fifth and final season.

Pam Gossin provided this report about the session “Creative Mediations: History, Science and their Publics”: The goal of this panel was to offer perspectives that examine the history, literature and art of science (all broadly defined / “without borders”) through subjects, objects, texts, artifacts, materials, media and messages in unique combinations that extend into and create new critical spaces for analysis and meaning-making. Each talk described the challenges and possibilities of collaborative scholarly processes in the creation of knowledge formation and products that respond to, reach toward, shape and envision new audiences for such research outside traditional disciplinary distinctions and classroom settings and beyond academic and professional boundaries. Panelists represented a wide range of interdisciplinary backgrounds, approaches and stages of career development: from “traditional nontraditional” academics trained in the history of science, literary studies and digital humanities to newly minted “alt-ac is the new ac” scholars drawing upon the history of science, art, new media and popular culture.

Keeping each talk between 12-15 minutes long, although difficult, was well worth the effort as everyone appreciated having over 30 minutes for meaningful audience participation and deeper conversation (SLSA moral: trust the emergent!). In the first talk, we heard about the “Unexpected History of Science” discovered during construction of a digital archive devoted to the life and letters of John G. Neihardt , including connections to the story of Hugh Glass, The Revenant, and early 20th-century critique of technology and science (Pamela Gossin). Next, we learned from the co-founders of Lady Science, Leila McNeill and Anna Reser, about their vision and mission as well as the unique challenges they’ve encountered as “female writers on the internet” as they research, write and produce their online blog and anthology devoted to feminist perspectives on the history of science. In our third talk, Sabrina Starnaman described a fascinating collaborative classroom experiment undertaken with her colleague, Xtine Burrough (present virtually) in which they drew upon art, literature, history and science to demonstrate the continued relevance of Rebecca Harding Davis’ realist novella Life in the Iron Mills (1861) for the 21 century. Their multi-modal digital st fabrication brought the literary text from literary studies students and piecework laborers on’s Mechanical Turk virtual crowd work platform to public viewers in the joint creation of a present-day Korl woman installation.

Our final speaker was Anna Swartz, a new graduate student in Humanities at Michigan Tech who offered a skillful presentation of her keen analysis of the “CSI effect” through which popular television shapes and interacts with public beliefs about the nature of forensic evidence and its use within the forensic science and legal professions. Anna’s case study questioned how artful and fictional storytelling through television can/does shift popular social perspectives of real forensic science and technology as well as attitudes, beliefs and behaviors within the American justice system and legal community. Those in attendance represented the full range of professional affiliations of this joint conference, with about equal numbers of SLSA, HSS and PSA members present. All panelists fielded questions that drew out deeper explanations about their ongoing projects, educational training and career experiences which simultaneously highlighted important underlying shared patterns of the benefits of cross-disciplinary collaboration, experiments with new forms of publication and audience formation through digital humanities techniques and new media. Of special note was the poignant continuity expressed by two founders of the history of women in science in attendance, Professors Marilyn Ogilvie and Margaret Rossiter, who both remarked how the work undertaken by McNeill and Reser in the creation of Lady Science reminds us all of how the exploration and mapping of new domains often calls for intrepid explorers willing to invent and employ new techniques and storytelling media in order to create a new audience for their research – as their own lives and work most meaningfully exemplify.

CONTRIBUTE TO THE SLSA WEBSITE: New publication announcements, course syllabi and other material for display on the website are welcome. Please see the site for details, or contact Wayne Miller, SLSA Electronic Resources Coordinator, at with any questions or comments.

NEW SLSA BIBLIOGRAPHER NEEDED: Bibliographer Jennifer Rhee is recruiting a successor to serve as Bibliographer. Contact her at for more information.

ANTHROPOSCENE: NEW SLSA BOOK SERIES FROM PENNSYLVANIA STATE UNIVERSITY PRESS: AnthropoScene is a new book series from the Pennsylvania State University Press, published in collaboration with SLSA. While not all scientists have accepted the term “anthropocene” as part of the geological timescale, the idea that humans are changing the planet and its environments in radical and irreversible ways has provoked new kinds of cross-disciplinary thinking about relationships among the arts, human technologies, and nature. This is the broad, cross-disciplinary basis for books published in AnthropoScene. Books in this series will include specialized studies for scholars in a variety of disciplines as well as widely accessible works of interest to broad audiences. They will examine, in a variety of ways, relationships and points of intersection among natural, biological, and applied sciences and literary, visual, and performing arts. The AnthropoScene series represents the depth and breadth of work being done by scholars in literature, science, and the arts, putting innovative juxtapositions within reach of specialists and non-specialists alike.

Series Editors are Lucinda Cole, University of Illinois, and Robert Markley, University of Illinois. Series Advisory Board members are Stacy Alaimo, University of Texas at Arlington; Ron Broglio, Arizona State University; Carol Colatrella, Georgia Institute of Technology; Heidi Hutner, Stony Brook University; Stephanie LeMenager, University of Oregon; Christopher Morris, University of Texas at Arlington; Laura Otis, Emory University; Will Potter, Washington, D.C.; Ronald Schleifer, University of Oklahoma; Susan Squier, Penn State University; Rajani Sudan, Southern Methodist University; and Kari Weil, Wesleyan University

Submissions to the AnthropoScene series should include a three- to five-page proposal outlining the intent of the project, its scope, its relation to other work on the topic, and its intended audience(s). Please also include two to three sample chapters, if available, and your CV. Questions or submissions? Contact Penn State Press:  Kendra Boileau, Editor-in-Chief, at or (814) 867-2220. Or email the series editors: Lucinda Cole at and Robert Markley at

Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts Executive Board (2016-2017)

President: Robert Markley, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Executive Director: Carol Colatrella, Georgia Institute of Technology
First Vice-President: Ron Broglio, Arizona State University
Second Vice-President: Marcel O’Gorman, University of Waterloo
Members-at-Large: Rebecca Perry, University of Virginia (2014-2016); Andrew Pilsch, Arizona State University & Rebekah Sheldon, Indiana University-Bloomington (2015-2017)
Graduate Student Liaisons: Nicole Keller Day, Northeastern University (; Kari Nixon, Southern Methodist University (; Sara DiCaglio (
Past Presidents: Laura Otis, Emory University; 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: Jeffrey Karnicky, Department of English, 2505 University Avenue,
Drake University, Des Moines, IA 50311. Email:
Publications Committee: Susan Squier, Penn State University; Ronald Schleifer, University of Oklahoma; Pamela Gossin, University of Texas at Dallas
Bibliographer: Jennifer Rhee, Virginia Commonwealth University (
Electronic Resources Coordinator: Wayne Miller, Duke University (
Arts Liaisons: Dennis Summers (; Kiki Benzon (
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