Reilly Lecture: "Genetic Conditions at the Frontiers of Science and Metaphysics: Epigenetics and Literature"


Location: 140 DeBartolo Hall


Personal narratives on genetic disability suggest roles for the cultural work of fiction and poetry to further understanding of genetic identities.

Prof. Peter Middleton explores genetic variation at the borders of science, culture, and metaphysics. He will draw on a recent poem and novel that display a drive to understand genetic information in terms of development and environment that is also evident in biological and medical research into epigenetics. He discusses different molecular biological models of epigenetic change focusing on how both epistemological and cultural consequences of new scientific developments likely to affect body, identity, and culture. He reflects on the uses of folk poetry to articulate hopes and fears about genetic disorders, and how para-literary texts create a backdrop against which literary aesthetics can be understood. 

Biographical Sketch

Peter Middleton is the author of the forthcoming book Physics Envy, about American poetry and science in the Cold War due to appear with Chicago UP later in 2015. He is also the author of books on poetry and performance, a co-authored book on memory, and a study of masculinity, as well as essays on modern poetry, and on literature and science, including climate change. He is currently the Secretary of the British Society for Literature and Science. Educated in both the United Kingdom and the United States, he is a Professor of English at the University of Southampton, UK.

This event is cosponsored by the Reilly Center, Department of English, Department of Biological Sciences and the William P. and Hazel B. White Professor of English. 

Originally published at