Participants and 10 minute sketches

Dr Alice Barnaby (Bedfordshire)
Dr Carolyn Burdett (Birkbeck)
Dr Jennifer Cooke (Loughborough)
Dr Amy Cutler (Leeds)
Dr Katherine Ebury (Sheffield)
Dr Gareth Farmer (Bedfordshire)
Professor Ashley Hall (Royal College of Art)
Professor Peter Heering (Europa-Universität Flensburg)
Professor Peter Middleton (Southampton)
Dr Drew Milne (Cambridge)
Dr Ben Pitcher (Westminster)
Dr Kate Smith (Birmingham)
Dr Scott Thurston (Salford)

Participants’ biographies, talk sketches and other information

Alice Barnaby (Bedfordshire – organiser)
Alice Barnaby is a senior lecturer in English Literature at the University of Bedfordshire. Her research explores philosophical questions about embodied knowledge, aesthetics, and material agency that arise from the encounter between perceptual experience and Victorian modernity. She conducts close, historicized readings of literary and visual sources in light of current debates concerning affect theory, new materialism, and object-orientated ontology. In testing out the value of these approaches her work rethinks established methodologies of cultural materialism. Her forthcoming monograph, Light Touches: Cultural Practices of Illumination 1800-1900 (Routledge), considers ways in which the medium of light was put to work as an aesthetic, philosophical and scientific instrument of investigation in the nineteenth century. In the context of this workshop she is interested in thinking about possible connections between Goethe’s experimental model of ‘delicate empiricism’ and Karen Barad’s concept of ‘agential realism’. Both approaches seek to acknowledge the role of the experimenter within the experiment’s setting.

Carolyn Burdett (Birkbeck)
Carolyn Burdett is Senior Lecturer in English and Victorian Studies at Birkbeck, University of London. Her interest in late-Victorian experimental psychology stems from her current research project – a book called Coining Empathy: Psychology, Aesthetics, Ethics 1870-1920.

‘Experimenting in the Galleries: Vernon Lee and Nineteenth-Century Psychology’
I will be talking about an extraordinary late-nineteenth-century woman, Vernon Lee. Writer of stories and novels, essayist and commentator, Lee devoted much time and effort to theorizing the experience of beauty. Deeply and widely read in the psychological literature of Britain, France and, especially, of Germany she believed that a scientific understanding of aesthetic response was possible and that an emergent experimental psychology could unlock the mystery of beauty. Although she acknowledged that ‘My aesthetics will always be those of the gallery and studio, not of the laboratory’, she saw herself as part of a ‘mutually, perhaps unconsciously, collaborating band of enquirers’ ‘objectively’ investigating how art works, how it affects bodies and minds. Lee wrote ‘Gallery Diaries’, recording her copious museum visits, asking ‘How have I perceived and felt to-day in my relations with given works of art?’ She recorded fatigue, hunger, and the interruptions of other gallery visitors; she noticed her heart-beat and her breathing; she hummed in front of sculptures and pictures and wondered how that affected how she saw: she turned the gallery into an experimental space.

Jennifer Cooke (Loughborough)
Jennifer Cooke is Senior Lecturer in English at Loughborough University. Her research interests lie in twentieth- and twenty-first-century experimental writing, from modernism through to contemporary poetics and life-writing; in critical and literary theory, especially in theories of intimacy, affect and emotion; feminism; and in the representation and politics of social and relational organisation. She is currently writing and researching a monograph, entitled The New Audacity: Contemporary Women’s Life-writing and the Politics of Intimacy, which focuses on experimental Anglo-American and European life-writing. In 2013 she edited a special issue of Textual Practice on the topic of Challenging Intimacies and edited the volume Scenes of Intimacy: Reading, Writing and Theorizing Contemporary Literature. She also has specific interests in and publications on: psychoanalysis (its history, impact and subsequent theorisation); modernist female writers; contemporary poetry; affect; Frankfurt School thinkers; and the work of Hélène Cixous. A previous monograph, Legacies of Plague in Literature, Theory and Film, examined plague as a metaphor in twentieth-century theatre, film, literature, political theory, and anti-Semitism.In addition, Cooke is an experimental poet. Her first collection was *not suitable for domestic sublimation (Contraband Books, 2012) and another, Apocalypse Dreams, is forthcoming this year.

Amy Cutler (Leeds)
Amy Cutler is a curator, writer, and Postdoctoral Research Fellow in New Humanities at the University of Leeds. Her doctorate was completed in two departments (English and Geography), and her research interests combine cultural / historical geography, the environmental humanities, British landscapes, experimental poetry / text, and philosophies of language. She is involved in finding new cross-disciplinary formats for inquiry, including innovative academic / para-academic publishing, curating practices, and ‘creative public geographies’. She has curated two exhibitions, Time, the deer, is in the wood of Hallaig (2013) and Forest Expectation Sites (forthcoming, 2015), and she also founded and ran the national award-winning cinema series for speculative geographical research, Passengerfilms (2011-present). In 2014 she was selected by the AHRC for a shortlist of 15 early career researchers doing the most inspiring work in arts-science collaboration. Her first chapbook Nostalgia Forest (Oystercatcher, 2013) draws on found diagrams to interrogate concepts of memory, and she has also written and published on a number of British poets. She is currently the lead academic for a White Rose consortium bringing arts and humanities research activities together with British forest cultures and independent woodland pilot projects.

‘Conjectural spaces: the margin and the diagram’
This introduction will consider literally marginal methodologies for knowledge: the REF-side-lined practices of glossing, annotating, and diagramming. I will briefly introduce a cross-disciplinary project I ran in 2012-2013, Land Diagrams, drawing on histories of thought around diagrams and their functions as contact zones, in which high profile writers from separate disciplines wrote simultaneous interpretations of the same unidentified diagram. I will also present the live project Were X A Tree: Glosses on Larkin, to be published with the cult experimental press Punctum Books. This presents the works of the essayist and poet Peter Larkin via thirty artists’ and scholars’ interventions in the form of glosses, marginalia, and para-texts. These responses each resist standard models of overview or the ‘ulterior motives book reviews or learned commentaries may have’ (Hulle and Mierlo, 2004), using the margins and interstices of the texts as conjectural, aesthetic, and experimental spaces (it is worth remembering that Fermat’s last theorem was itself famously a marginal note).

Katherine Ebury (Sheffield)
Katherine Ebury is lecturer in modern literature at the University of Sheffield. Her book on Modernism and Cosmology, about early twentieth century literary responses to Einstein, appeared with Palgrave in 2014. Her new project will examine twentieth century representations of capital punishment.

In Modernism and Cosmology, Yeats, Joyce and Beckett are examined as test cases for modernist aesthetic responses to a new cosmology. Katherine Ebury teases out the reception of Einstein’s cosmology in modernist literary culture, both locally and globally. Detailed close readings of the key works of Yeats, Joyce and Beckett are used to develop alternative reading models of texts such as Finnegans Wake and ‘The Trilogy’; within these texts we find multiple references to binary stars, nebulae, the Big Bang Theory, the space-time continuum and the Expanding Universe and many other key concepts of the ‘mysterious universe’ of the new physics, providing insights into their difficulty, absurdity and beauty. Careful attention to contemporary popularisations allows us to achieve a measure of the intellectual toolbox with which these modernist writers equipped themselves and to understand their creative transformations of this material.

Gareth Farmer (Bedfordshire – organiser)
Gareth Farmer is a lecturer in English at the University of Bedfordshire. His research focuses on modern and contemporary poetry and poetics and experimental literature, with a particular emphasis on form. He is also interested in the intersections between literature and theory, literary affect and types of ‘critical poetics’. He is currently completing a monograph on the poet, Veronica Forrest-Thomson and is the senior academic consultant to the Veronica Forrest-Thomson Archive at Girton College, Cambridge. With Scott Thurston, Gareth co-edits the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry. He has published widely on modern and contemporary poetry and poetics and has also published several poetry pamphlets. His collection, Diurnal Sweigh, will be out with the Knives, Forks and Spoons Press in 2016.

Ashley Hall (Royal College of Art)
Ashley Hall is Professor of Design Innovation and deputy head of the Innovation Design Engineering programme at the Royal College of Art where he directs the first year of the MA, IDE research, experimental design and the GoGlobal project. He is also a founding partner of Diplomat furniture and product design consultancy. He actively researches in a number of design and innovation fields from design thinking and experimental design to the future of making and translocated making. He has lectured internationally at universities in Australia, China, Ghana, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, Norway, Mali and the USA, where he has developed collaborative cross-cultural design and innovation projects.

My talk will give an overview of my experiences leading the experimental design learning stand on the Innovation Design Engineering Masters programme and some observations on experimentation in design research. In particular focussing on experimentation as an overall design approach and some thoughts updated from my 2011 paper for design issues on Experimental design.


Peter Heering (Plenary speaker)
Peter Heering is professor of physics and physics didactics at the University Flensburg since 2009. His main research interests are historical scientific experimental practices which he analyses with the replication method, the relation between research and teaching experiments and the implementation of history of science in science education. He is currently President of the International History Philosophy and Science Teaching Group ( and Vice-President of the Inter-divisional Teaching Commission of the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science.

Plenary abstract
Exploring experimental practices in the historiography of science

In my presentation, I am going to familiarize you with an approach that aims at developing an understanding of experimental practices in the history of science. In doing so, we are reenacting these experiments with reconstructions of historical devices. The aim of this approach is to develop an understanding of various aspects of these experiments. Whilst scientists’ and the classical historians’ descriptions of experiments are focusing almost entirely on the experimental findings, we address aspects such as material ones or performative ones. In doing so, it is possible to identify developments in experimental practices. These developments are not to be understood in the sense of a progression towards modern experimental practices; instead, these practices are time-dependent and can thus be understood in terms of a cultural development.


Drew Milne (Cambridge)
Drew Milne’s research interests include, comparative drama, poetry and critical theory, with an emphasis on modernism and its legacies in contemporary writing, especially Samuel Beckett, and aspects of Renaissance drama, such as Shakespeare in performance. Current research projects include studies of: ecological poetics and politics; performance and performance criticism; modernist poetics; Shakespeare in performance; Marxist literary theory; contemporary poetry and poetics; and recent British drama.

Rewilding the Poetics of Experiment: as a procedural attitude, experimental poetry supervenes over the crisis of traditional verse forms revealed by the diminishing returns of ‘free’ verse. The results of experimental poetry are uncertain, toggling between that which is somehow interesting over against that which is merely interesting. All writing is experimental, involving trial and error, but the experimental attitude seeks to delimit explicit or non-intuitive procedures. Experimental poetry suspends the grammar of prose, and thereby the hierarchies of argument sustained by prose. The indeterminacy of modernist grammar suggests parallels with the science of relativity and uncertainty. Analogies between poetics and scientific experiment are mostly superficial, however, misdirections that disguise an ecology of process in which poetic environments attempt to be self-determining and sui generis. The agency of judgment in experimental poetic procedures remains critical, both for poetry and for readers.

Peter Middleton (Southampton)
I came to Southampton after studying at Oxford, Sheffield and SUNY Buffalo.
My research interests include science and literature, modern and contemporary poetry, poetry performance, ecology and climate change, critical theory, gender studies, and philosophy and literature. I have published books on gender, memory, and poetics, and edited with Nicky Marsh a book on the teaching of modernist poetry. Other writings include essays on different aspects of modern poetry and fiction, creative non-fiction works on poetry and other issues, and a book of poems. Currently I am writing a book on American science and poetry in the Cold War.

Ben Pitcher (Westminster)
Ben Pitcher is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Westminster. He writes and teaches about race, politics and popular culture. His most recent book is Consuming Race (Routledge, 2014), which offers some new ways of thinking about the centrality of race to our lives. His current research project explores the racial politics of rocks and stones.

Kate Smith (Birmingham)
Kate Smith is a Lecturer in Eighteenth-Century History at the University of Birmingham and has particular interests in histories of material culture, production, consumption, skill, the senses and the emotions. Kate’s research has examined the ways in which historical actors produced, consumed and derived meaning from the material world around them. Her first monograph Material Goods, Moving Hands: Perceiving Production in England, 1700-1830, argued that eighteenth-century consumers not only bought an increasing array of goods, they also sought out knowledge about production processes and the material world. As a post-doctoral fellow on UCL’s The East India Company at Home, 1757-1857 project (2001-2014) Kate further explored consumer cultures, this time in a global and imperial context, to show how people used and appropriated imperial objects. Her research examined how East India Company officials and families employed objects as gifts to retain connections with family members back home and as things to display and arrange once they returned to Britain. Kate’s current monograph project Absent Objects: Lost Property in the Long Eighteenth Century grew out of her research on imperial families, which revealed loss as a major preoccupation in Britain and its empire. Absent Objects examines loss – particularly the impact of loss on relationships between people and their property – as an important and neglected aspect of everyday life in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British cities.

Alongside and within her core research, Kate has co-convened the 100 Hours project, which brought together a team of interdisciplinary scholars to realise new research frameworks and approaches for the study of material things in contemporary and historical study. Together the group used discussion, collaborative writing, object handling, repetitive practice and performance art to interrogate the ways in which scholars pay attention to objects in different sites and contexts. In doing so Kate has worked with a number of different scholars to identify and challenge the assumptions present in historical practice.

Scott Thurston (Salford)
Scott Thurston’s most recent book is Figure Detached Figure Impermanent (Oystercatcher, 2014). He co-organises The Other Room reading series in Manchester and co-edits the Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry. Scott lectures at the University of Salford and has published widely on innovative poetry, including a book of interviews entitled Talking Poetics (Shearsman, 2011). See his pages at

Scott’s current research is on the interaction between radical poetry and movement practices, using his experience of Five Rhythms (Roth, 1989) and Contact Improvisation (Paxton, 1972) alongside study of the New York City-based Judson Dance Theater (1962-66) with a view to developing new performances which combine movement and language. See an interview with Scott about this work here:

I will be considering how the concepts and practices of experiment balance the procedural with the innovative in the context of recent poetry. Glancing briefly at the tensions between designating certain trends in poetry as ‘experimental’ and/or ‘innovative’, I will explore the poet Allen Fisher’s distinctions between procedure, process, and process-showing as ways of thinking about the ethics and politics of experimental writing.


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