The Contagion Cabaret, Oxfordshire Science Festival

The Contagion Cabaret, Tuesday 20 June 2017, 7.30-10pm

Museum of the History of Science, Oxford 

Image: iStock.com/WilliamSherman

The Constructing Scientific Communities and Diseases of Modern Life projects are taking part in the Oxfordshire Science Festival with The Contagion Cabaret  at the Museum of the History of Science, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3AZ.

Killer germs, superbugs, pestilent plagues and global pandemics have fascinated writers, musicians and thinkers for centuries. As diseases spread through a population, likewise myths and ideas travel virally through film, literature, theatre and social media. Join a cast of actors, scientists and literary researchers for an inventive illustration of infectious extracts from plays and music, past and present.

The event is free but booking is required via Eventbrite.

Please note that the doors to the Museum will open at 7.15pm and the talk begins promptly at 7.30pm. Late arrivals cannot be guaranteed entry. This event is suitable for ages 14+

Sally Shuttleworth is Professor of English Literature looking at the inter-relations between literature and science, including the project Diseases of Modern Life: Nineteenth-Century Perspectives.

Kirsten Shepherd-Barr is Professor of English and Theatre Studies, interested in the relationship between modernism, science and theatrical performance.

John Terry is Artistic Director of Chipping Norton Theatre known for ambitious and adventurous theatre work, usually script based but with a strong visual and physical tilt.

 

Vacancy: Postdoctoral Research Assistant

Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Assistant to join the team working on the Diseases of Modern Life: Nineteenth Century Perspectives project.  The post  is full time and will be fixed term from 18 October 2017 (or as soon as possible thereafter) for the remainder of the grant which finishes on 31 January 2019.

The postholder will work under the direction of Professor Sally Shuttleworth, and will be expected to produce a monograph, or series of articles, relating to the project research, present their research at UK and international conferences, assist with media activity, and help organise public engagement activities.

Candidates should have been awarded a PhD in a relevant field (such as history of medicine or science, or literature) by the time of taking up the post.  You should show outstanding academic promise, and be willing to assist in the organisation of seminars, workshops and conferences, and contribute to the general running of the project.

Applications must be submitted online. To apply, please click here.

Please note: the closing date is midday on Friday 30 June 2017.

Candidates will need to upload a CV, supporting statement, an outline of a potential book project or series of articles, and a sample of written work.  Please ensure all documents are uploaded as PDF files. 

Candidates should ask two referees to submit reference letters directly to the Project Administrator, Alyson Slade at : alyson.slade@ell.ox.ac.uk by the closing date.

It is hoped that interviews will be held in the last two weeks of July.

Keynotes from Mind Reading: Mental Health and the Written Word

Both literature and clinical medicine deal with issues such as subjective identity, selfhood, and the social and cultural determinants of health and well-being. This is particularly brought to the fore in the complex relationships between mental illness, the patient, and the physician. At times, this may involve engagement with questions of pain, trauma, language, narrative, and expression, and the disruption and reconstitution of selves. As well as providing insight into these most basic and universal of human concerns, and the attitudes and experiences of people coping with illness or making decisions about their health, how might literature usefully inform the science and practice of clinical medicine?

Our one-day event at the dlr Lexicon Library, Dublin on Friday, 10th March, a joint collaboration between UCD Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Diseases of Modern Life Project based at St Anne’s College, Oxford, sought to locate and to explore productive interactions between literature and mental health both historically and in the present day. We aimed to identify the roles that writing and narrative can play in medical education, patient and self-care, and/or professional development schemes, and to share our experiences of using and reading literature in the context of mental health, from a range of different perspectives and disciplines.

Bringing together psychologists, psychiatrists, GPs, service users, and historians of literature and medicine within the beautiful spaces of the dlrLexicon, we asked questions about how literature might provide a point of therapeutic engagement. We considered the use of literary techniques such as close-reading and textual analysis in medical consultations, and the methods that might be used to increase the well-being and communication skills of medical learners, healthcare providers, service users, and family members.

Our first keynote speaker, Professor James Lucey, spoke about the importance of creating a space for people to tell their stories, and the importance not only of listening to, but of re-telling those stories. Fiction, Lucey suggested, simply doesn’t exist, for all stories are true:

Our second keynote, by Professor Fergus Shanahan, explored the possibilities of ‘mining medicine from literature’, noting the critical difference between the objective disease and subjective experiences of illness. With reference to Proust and Joyce, Shanahan argued that literature can offer a deeper understanding of the place of medicine in society, the historical forces that have shaped it, and the challenges it will face in the future:

In our third and final keynote  Professor Sally Shuttleworth provided a historical perspective on relations between literature and mental health, and argued that literary works in the nineteenth century often furnished frameworks for new theoretical and therapeutical approaches to mental health. In effect, literature brought about a shift in how mental illness was perceived:

Podcasts of these talks are available here, and a storify of the day’s events is available here.

We would like to thank all our speakers, delegates, and everyone who contributed to the discussion online and offline for helping to shape such a fascinating and thought-provoking day.

UCD Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Diseases of Modern Life team.