Interdisciplinary blog

MDR Week: Blog no 5- Poetry and Science: The Litmus Project

March 13, 2013
by Luke Goater

Join Rough Guide travel writer James McConnachie, transport engineer Dr Ben Waterson, and English Professor Peter Middleton to discover how innovative research can link literature and science at the exhibition ‘Poetry and Science: The Litmus Project’ on Monday 18th March. An insight into this exciting and multidisciplinary research field can be found below.


Poetry and Science: The Litmus Project

By James McConnachie and Professor Peter Middleton


  James McConnachie-


I’m one of the university’s Royal Literary Fund Fellows. We’re here to help all students with their academic writing, offering one-to-one consultations. I am a travel writer and have also written a biography of the Kamasutra, The Book of Love (Atlantic, 2007) The Rough Guide to Sex (Rough Guides, 2009) and the co-authored, Conspiracy Theories (Rough Guides, 2008). Our co-leader, Will May (who is on sabbatical this semester) convenes the MA in Creative Writing and is committed to projects that use writing to bring different communities together supporting  interdisciplinary research on twentieth-century issues.

Details of the Litmus Project can be found at:

I’ve been participating in the Litmus Project as a writer, working on my poetic response to the Southampton University scientist, Dr Ben Waterson, a transport research engineer based in Engineering. The challenge is considerable – come and see how I did! Fresh ideas do not grow from stale soil. That’s as true of writing as anything else. And when writers meet scientists, they often find they have to lift their game.


  Professor Peter Middleton-


I’m a professor in English.  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’ve published books on gender, memory, poetics and teaching poetry. I have also published a book of poetry, and short works of creative non-fiction.

People will enjoy the event because it is bound to surprise them – in a good way. To discover how science can be communicated through poetry is a very stimulating experience and gives people an unexpected viewpoint which is very refreshing. The Litmus project is inspiring and that is why the audience will like it.

Litmus is a team effort. Will May, James McConnachie, and myself, share a belief that creative writers benefit from direct encounters with scientists. Creative Writing is a significant part of what we do in English, attracting students at all levels. This project gives us a chance to offer them a multidisciplinary element and the students who have volunteered their research time to collaborate with science graduate researchers for the project, clearly appreciate that. Will May is a prize-winning author of a study of the writer Stevie Smith and he also has a keen interest in science, James McConnachie you now know from this blog! And I am one of a group of researchers in English who are investigating the interrelations between literature and the sciences. How have writers been influenced by the sciences, and how have they investigated, in novels, plays and poems, the social consequences of scientific ideas and discoveries? How might discoveries in the literary arts of relevance to questions being asked by current scientific researchers be made more accessible to them? How can we encourage researchers in the humanities and the sciences to improve their communications with each other? This is why multidisciplinary research is vital and this is what Litmus is all about.




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Categories: multidisciplinary research, Multidisciplinary Research Week, Science and Poetry, and The Litmus Project. Tags: #MDRWeek, James McConnachie, Multidisciplinary, Professor Peter Middleton, Science and Poetry, and The Litmus Project.