Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century: Seminars for Michaelmas Term 2016


Our programme for Michaelmas Term 2016 is now announced with two seminars at St Anne’s College.

Drinks will be served after each seminar. All welcome, no booking is required.

Wednesday 19 October 2016 (Week 2)

Dr Andrew Mangham, University of Reading

‘Have ye ever seen a child clemmed to death?’ : Elizabeth Gaskell and the Physiology of Starvation

5.30 – 7.00, Seminar Room 3, St Anne’s College

This talk will highlight the ways in which the social problem realism of Elizabeth Gaskell intersected with physiological ideas on the material nature of starvation. In modern historical studies and literary criticism there has been a tendency to look upon the social problem novel as an advocate for the emotional needs of the poor; it became highly critical, it is assumed, of the materialist and scientific approaches to social issues. Dr Mangham will argue that central to the novel’s focus on the human is an engagement with the principles, themes and epistemologies of physiology. Gaskell knew important figures in physiology, and engaged with scientists and social reformers through her Unitarian connections in Manchester. She developed a self-reflexive form of realism in her work that, while it tested the reaches and limits of the positivist approach, also saw its dedication to ‘truth’ as central to the moral and emotional understanding of poverty.

Andrew Mangham is associate professor in Victorian literature and culture at the University of Reading. He is the author of Violent Women and Sensation Fiction and Dickens’s Forensic Realism (forthcoming January 2017). He has edited The Cambridge Companion to Sensation Fiction, The Female Body in Medicine and Literature and The Male Body in Medicine and Literature (forthcoming). He is currently working on a study of medical and literary representations of starvation in the nineteenth century.

Wednesday 9 November 2016 (Week 5)

Dr kitt price, Queen Mary, University of London

Psychic Dreams and Newspapers in the Late Nineteenth Century

5.30 – 7.00, Seminar Room 5, St Anne’s College.

Psychic researchers in the late nineteenth century urged newspaper readers to survey their acquaintances for cases of telepathy, clairvoyance, psychic dreams and hallucinations. Dreams proved to be the most wayward of these research objects, requiring additional controls in order to attain evidential value. Media networks helped to stabilise the forms of truth that psychic dreams might offer, with newspapers and telegrams serving to verify the dream’s relationship to external, waking events. As dreams gained new status in the psychological disciplines around the turn of the century, psychic researchers revisited the dream as a valid superconscious phenomenon, drawing the new media technologies of wireless and cinema into the verification process. This paper will track the relationship between media forms and psychic dreams in the work of British, American and French psychic researchers from the 1880s to the 1930s, exploring tensions around evidence that emerged between dream collectors, their subjects, and the media.

kitt price lectures in modern and contemporary literature at Queen Mary University of London. They are the author of Loving Faster than Light: Romance and Readers in Einstein’s Universe.

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