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Thinking on Sunday: Examining Intelligence – Novelists on Education and Mental Ability

12th May 2019 · 3:00pm - 4:30pm

In person | Virtual event

 Thinking on Sunday: Examining Intelligence – Novelists on Education and Mental Ability

How do you rate your own intelligence?  Chances are, the question makes you reflect on your experiences at school and perhaps especially on your exam results, even if you don’t believe school or exams are a genuine measure of mental worth.

As mass public education systems were implemented in both Britain and the United States in the late nineteenth century, “intelligence” became a key topic in science and psychology. The scientific desire to make mental capacities measurable soon entered the everyday world of the classroom in the form of the intelligence test, which came into widespread use after 1900. Yet while the intelligence test and the notion of IQ rapidly gained popular currency, the cultural meaning of “intelligence” remained unstable. 

Late Victorian and modernist novels famously tell us about bad educations: about thwarted potential, cruel or incompetent teachers, boredom and disillusionment, and the gulf between formal education and the “real” world. They also probe the meaning of “intelligence” in the era when it first becomes commonplace to classify and rank minds by test scores. In these three short talks, Dr Michael Collins from King’s College London and Dr Sara Lyons and Dr Natasha Periyan from the University of Kent will discuss how novelists such as Thomas Hardy, Virginia Woolf, D. H. Lawrence, and Mark Twain think about intelligence both in and out of the classroom.

Doors 2.45pm. Start 3pm.

Entry £8, £4 concessions (free to Conway Hall Ethical Society members, who should book these tickets in advance via the Book Now button)

Event is subject to capacity, without exceptions. Space will be reserved for ticket holders.

This event is in the Brockway Room on the ground floor (Ground floor – accessible. Induction loop audio). For accessibility info:

It is part of Conway Hall Ethical Society’s charitable programme and is tax-exempt.

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