Event: Free Workshop for GCSE English Language Students!

On Tuesday 7th May, Diseases of Modern Life will be back in Dorset this time to talk to students on the theme of Illness and Well-being in the Nineteenth Century. Using our free GCSE resources, we will situate Victorian ideas of health within the context of local literary legend Thomas Hardy’s writings, and encourage students to explore the links between fiction and non-fiction, as well as how preparation for English Language can aid you in English Literature (hint: it tests the same skills!).

The workshop will take place at Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum in Central Dorchester, and the full programme can be seen below. We have sent invitations to all schools local to the area, but if you happen to be able to come along then please email catherine.charlwood@ell.ox.ac.uk to book places for your students – we’d be delighted to welcome you.

This workshop is the result of a collaboration between Diseases of Modern Life and the Thomas Hardy Society, specifically Dr Karin Koehler of Bangor University, Andrew Hewitt, who is undertaking a PhD on Thomas Hardy at the University of Hull, and – especially for the creative responses session – published author and Academic Director of the Thomas Hardy Society, Dr Faysal Mikdadi.

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 WRITING ABOUT ILLNESS AND WELL-BEING IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY

7 May 2019 

Free English GCSE Students Workshop
at Shire Hall, Central Dorchester

to help prepare students for unseen non-fiction prose element of the GCSE exam

10.00-10.30am Arrival and registration
10.30-10.45am Welcome and overview of the day

·         Why we’re here: learning objectives and expectations for the day

·         How we’ll approach the topic of illness and well-being: what topics we’ll be reading about and discussing, and a chance to raise any concerns

10.45-11.30am Nature and well-being in Thomas Hardy

We will discuss a selection of poems/passages from the work of Thomas Hardy about the interactions, positive and negative, between people and nature. This will be our starting-point for thinking about what role nature might play in people’s well-being (globally and individually).

11.30am- 12.15pm Illness and well-being from the point of view of science and medicine

We will introduce a selection of non-fiction texts highlighting typical nineteenth-century concerns about illness and well-being – for example, the impact of sedentary lifestyles in urban settings and different theories about mental health – and explore some of the challenges for a 21st-century reader of understanding, analysing, and responding to such texts.

12.15-1.00pm FREE LUNCH
1.00-1.45pm Fiction versus non-fiction

Drawing on more examples from Thomas Hardy, who used non-fiction sources as an inspiration for his novels and stories, we will consider the relationship of fiction and non-fiction (which were less separate in nineteenth-century culture than now) to inform the analysis of nineteenth-century prose. How is reading a scientific or medical text different from reading fiction or poetry? How is it similar? How can English Language help you with English Literature and the other way around?

1.45-2.30pm Responding creatively to nineteenth-century concerns about illness and well-being

We will prepare creative responses – e.g. poems, short narratives, drawings – to the anxiety about the disconnection of nature and humans, in Hardy’s day and in ours. What links the nineteenth century to the present?

2.30-2.45pm Afternoon break

Refreshments provided

2.45-3.30pm Practical exercise

The day will end with a practical session in which participants and facilitators will collaborate on preparing an answer to a mock exam question featuring an unseen extract of nineteenth century literary non-fiction.

3.30-3.45pm Feedback
3.45pm Workshop ends

 

Teachers and students of English Literature at GCSE, IB or A Level might also be interested in the Thomas Hardy Society Essay Competition, which has a deadline of 30th April. As well as a £50 Amazon voucher, you could end up being published in a Thomas Hardy Society journal!

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Colloquium – ‘Solitude and Modernity’

Solitude10.30am to 5pm, 8th June 2019 

St Anne’s College, Oxford 

Colloquium co-sponsored by Pathologies of Solitude (QMUL) and Diseases of Modern Life (Oxford)

Header image: ‘Evening (Melancholy I)’. Edvard Munch (1863-1944). Photograph © 2019. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century Seminars in Trinity Term 2019

A man conducts an alchemical experiment with an alembic. Coloured stipple engraving by J. Chapman, 1805, after R. Corbould. Image credit: Wellcome Collection.

A man conducts an alchemical experiment with an alembic. Coloured stipple engraving by J. Chapman, 1805, after R. Corbould. Image credit: Wellcome Collection.

Tuesday 14 May 2019 (Week 3)

Dr Jim Mussell, University of Leeds

Binding and Embodiment: Oliver Lodge, Physics, and the Book

Boxer2

This paper considers the role of embodiment in the work of the physicist and spiritualist Oliver Lodge (1851-1940) through two very different books. The first is the visitor book from Mariemont, the Lodges’ house in Birmingham from 1901-1920; the second is Lodge’s book Raymond (1916), which details his ongoing relationship with his dead son, Raymond, killed the previous year at Ypres.  These two early twentieth-century books have much to tell us about how Lodge, then at the peak of his fame, began to seem increasingly Victorian.  They also reveal details of a social life that radically involved the living and the dead.

Best know for his work in wireless telegraphy in the 1890s , Lodge spent his career trying to understand the intangible and imponderable. An adherent of the ether, defending it until his death in 1941, Lodge was committed to a universe in which matter was nothing but etheric motion.  The ether provided an ontological basis for both psychical and physical phenomena as well the epistemological ground on which to reconcile science, spiritualism, and religion.  While Lodge’s philosophy proved remarkably popular in the first decades of the twentieth century, establishing him as not just a scientific authority but probably the best-known scientist of his day, it also made him seem curiously out of time.  In the years after the second world war Lodge’s popularity became a problem and Lodge himself a Victorian sage who lived too long.

The two books, in their different ways, are an attempt to document social relations by locating individuals in time and space.  The visitor book records the range of people the Lodges hosted at Mariemont, whether visiting dignitaries or the extended Lodge family, scientists or mediums.  Raymond, on the other hand, gives details of Raymond’s life before his death then transcripts of encounters with his spirit on the other side.  Whereas the visitor book’s list of names testifies to the intangible connections that constitute social life, Raymond desparately seeks to situate the personality of Raymond somewhere in the ether, surviving on with integrity in a medium that should not permit survival in such a form.  Whereas the pages of the visitor book consitute a chronological narrative as people come, go, and come again; Raymond offers the book itself as a surrogate body that could ensure he was close at hand.  Both books can help us understand Lodge’s reputation, at the time and afterwards.  Both books, too, can help us understand how Lodge recognised identity in a universe in which we were all always connected.

5.30—7.00, Seminar Room 1, St Anne’s College

Tuesday 28 May 2019 (Week 5)

Dr Heather Tilley, Birkbeck College, University of London

Nervous mimicry: performing paralysis in nineteenth-century culture

paralysis

The nineteenth century marked the emergence of neurology as a specialist clinical discipline, with research and practice identifying a range of neurodegenerative conditions with distinct nosological categories, and new therapies to deal with them. The nervous system was also however recognised to be particularly susceptible to influence by the mind and emotions, with the mid-nineteenth century neurologist Charles Handfield Jones stressing that as ‘all the passions and emotion … perceptions and recollections’ operate through it, ‘is it any wonder that exhaustion should frequently befall this delicate and complex machinery’ (1864)? In this paper, I will assess the ways in which forms of paralysis were variously categorised as organic or functional diseases from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, and consider how functional paralysis – or ‘nervous mimicry’, as it was described by the physician James Paget – became a condition of increasing medical and cultural attention from the 1850s onwards, signalling particular anxieties concerning the relationship between mental, moral, and bodily health and capacity.

Notably, neurological debate touched on the extent to which patients (both male and female) might be ‘shamming’ or performing their conditions, replicating wider social and cultural debates in which the paralysed body was a contradictory object of both moral sympathy and suspicion. I will explore how paralysis was associated by an anxious questioning concerning both the authenticity and productivity of embodied identity in a range of nineteenth-century cultural texts. In the fourth volume of London Labour and the London Poor (1861-2), Henry Mayhew and his journalist colleagues are troubled by the status of crippled beggars, worried about those who might be ‘imposters’ whilst also recognising the need for people to perform their disabilities to elicit alms. In his novel Little Dorrit (1855-57), Dickens reinforced the practice of imagining and representing paralysed bodies within an inherently suspicious framework, as motor impairment was indexically linked to moral corruption in the depiction of Mrs Clennam. The poet Eugene Lee-Hamilton also described paralysis as loss in his collection Sonnets of the Wingless Hours (1894), in which he lamented how ‘my manhood goes where goes the song /Of pent-up bird, the cry of crippled things’. However, the development of Lee-Hamilton’s own writing career during a prolonged period of illness – understood to be psychological in origin – points also to the generative and productive possibilities of paralysis.

Paralysis: Apparatus for the treatment of paralysis. Image credit: Wellcome Collection.

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

Tuesday 11 June 2019 (Week 7)

Professor Sharon Ruston, University of Lancaster

Victor Frankenstein, the Chemist

Recognition that matter could change state without changing its chemical properties was a crucial development in late eighteenth-century science. Ice, water, and steam were understood as the same combination of elements in different states of matter. This led chemists such as Humphry Davy and John Dalton to believe that no new elements could be created and none could be destroyed. Instead, matter was continually changing and transforming into new states of being. In this talk, I’ll look at Victor Frankenstein’s training and achievements in chemistry and his investigation into the chemical transformation that takes place ‘from life to death’, as well as the novel’s more general interest in mutability.

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

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

Free Teacher Workshop: Engaging Students in C19th Prose

On Friday 12th April, a team of researchers will present a free workshop designed to help teachers of GCSE English Language engage their students in nineteenth-century prose. AQA, the most popular exam board, now have unseen nineteenth-century literary non-fiction as part of Paper 2 of GCSE English Language, so getting today’s 15-16-year-olds on board with nineteenth-century non-fiction has never been more important!

The workshop will take place at Shire Hall Historic Courthouse Museum in Central Dorchester, and the full programme can be seen below. We have invited all teachers local to the area, but if you happen to be able to come along then please email catherine.charlwood@ell.ox.ac.uk to book a free place – we’d be delighted to welcome you.

This workshop – and its upcoming partner event, a workshop for GCSE students themselves on Tuesday 7th May – is the result of a collaboration between Diseases of Modern Life and the Thomas Hardy Society, specifically Dr Karin Koehler of Bangor University, and Andrew Hewitt, who is undertaking a PhD on Thomas Hardy at the University of Hull. For the teacher workshop we are delighted to be working also with a team of three researchers from the University of Exeter, headed by Prof Angelique Richardson.

 

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ENGAGING STUDENTS IN 19TH-CENTURY PROSE: RESEARCH-BASED RESOURCES FOR TEACHERS

 12th April 2019

Free English GCSE Teaching Workshop for Teachers at Shire Hall, Central Dorchester

 

11.00-11.30 Arrival and registration

Tea and coffee will be provided.

11.30-11.35 Welcome and Overview of the Day
11.35-12.20 Fiction and Non-Fiction: Reading Nineteenth-Century Prose with Thomas Hardy

Based on the example of Thomas Hardy, who used non-fiction sources as an inspiration for his novels and stories, this initial session will show that fiction and non-fiction were less separate in nineteenth-century culture than now.  It will suggest that by acknowledging the close relationship between fiction and non-fiction, we can make the analysis of nineteenth-century prose less intimidating and more engaging for pupils.

12.20-1.15 Free lunch
1.15-2.15 Hardy and Heritage Project – Resources for Schools

Professor Angelique Richardson, Stephanie Meek, and John Blackmore will introduce educational resources developed at Exeter University, related to the teaching of nineteenth- and twentieth-century non-fiction. Short presentations will be followed by the opportunity for conversation and Q&A.

2.15-2.45 Diseases of Modern Life Project – Educational Resources

Dr Catherine Charlwood (St Anne’s, Oxford) will introduce resources for teachers and students developed as part of the European Research Council funded ‘Diseases of Modern Life’ project.

2.45-3.00 Afternoon break

Tea and coffee will be provided.

3.00-4.00 Thomas Hardy and Diseases of Modern Life

Dr Catherine Charlwood, Andrew Hewitt, and Dr Karin Koehler will lead a workshop that explores how teachers might draw on the important local heritage of Hardy’s writing to teach nineteenth-century non-fiction. This session will also look ahead to a follow-up event planned for students on 7 May.

4.00-4.30 Feedback and Ways Forward

The day will end with a session in which we discuss what sort of resources and input teachers would like from universities and cultural organisations such as the Thomas Hardy Society and the Hardy Country Consortium.

 

Teachers and students of English Literature at GCSE, IB or A Level might also be interested in the Thomas Hardy Society Essay Competition, which has a deadline of 30th April. As well as a £50 Amazon voucher, you could end up being published in a Thomas Hardy Society journal!

Podcast: Victorian Speed of Life, an interview with The Projection Studio

How do you turn five years of research into a spectacular light and sound show?

As you may have seen, Ross Ashton and Karen Monid from The Projection Studio expertly answered this question in their incredible projection ‘Victorian Speed of Life’. Using research from our project and sound and images from the Victorian era, Ross and Karen took audiences from pre-railroad to Industrial Britain, showcasing all of the cultural, social, technological changes that created modern life–and, of course, its attendant diseases.

 

Humanities Oxford Being Human

Light Projection on Humanities Building Oxford (Photo credit: Stuart Bebb)

You can see a video recording of the final project on our blog here.

It’s been a few months since the show, but we still had a few lingering questions for The Projection Studio–How do you make something on the huge scale of a light and sound spectacular? What challenges did our research present? How did our project impact your work and future projects? Recently, Principal Investigator Sally Shuttleworth had the opportunity to ask these questions directly to Ross and Karen.

Hear the answers in the podcast here, which features audio from the show itself!

 

(In case you prefer to listen to it using your computer’s internal speakers, rather than headphones, you might find this version preferable: https://anchor.fm/diseasesmodlife/episodes/After-the-Show-Remastered-for-Speakers-e4086k)