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

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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.

Event this week: Mind Reading 2019: Adolescence, Literature, and Mental Health

DoML_Mind_Reading

17th May, 2019
St Anne’s College, Oxford

Can literature and narrative improve the lives of young people?

This one-day programme of talks and workshops will bring together literary and humanities scholars with service users and practitioners in the field of child and adolescent mental health. Together we will ask questions about the role of literature as a point of therapeutic
engagement in caring for children, adolescents, and young people.

We are interested in how literature might play a role when we experience pain, trauma, and stress, as well as the ways in which literature might be employed as a tool to improve communication and foster understanding between medical learners, healthcare providers, service users, and family members.

The programme can be found below, to book your place please visit https://www.oxforduniversitystores.co.uk/conferences-and-events/english-faculty/events/mind-reading-2019-adolescence-literature-and-mental-health

CPD certificates of attendance will be available to all delegates. The event has been approved for 6.5 CPD points by the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland

 

9.30 – 10.00 Arrival and Registration

10.00 – 10.10 Welcome and Introduction

10.10 – 11.10 First Keynote Address
Joanne Dunphy (Vice Principal, Oxford Spires Academy), ‘Being Heard’

11.10 – 11.30 Coffee Break

11.30 – 1.00 Presentations
Dr Mina Fazel (Associate Professor in Psychiatry, University of Oxford), ‘Adolescence and Authority: Exploring the Contradictory Messages Young People Navigate in Mental Healthcare’

Dr Gordon Bates (MBChB, MMedSc; University of Birkbeck), ‘”A Lot of You Cared, Just Not Enough”: Teen Suicide in Popular Culture’
Dr Edward Harcourt (Faculty of Philosophy, Oxford and Director of Research, AHRC), ‘Emotional Self-Regulation and Autonomy’

1.00 – 2.00 Lunch

2.00 – 3.10 Presentations
Dr Gaby Illingworth and Dr Rachel Sharman (Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences), ‘The Teensleep Study: Sleep Education in UK Schools’
Students from Oxford Spires Academy, ‘Poems from a School”

3.10 – 3.40 Coffee

3.40 – 4.50 Presentations
Dr Jacqueline Yallop (Senior Lecturer in English and Creative Writing, Aberystwyth University), ‘Writing Pain Wales: Working with Creative Writing and Chronic Pain’
Professor Brendan Stone (Deputy Vice-President for Education, The University of Sheffield), ‘”I Travelled Deeper into the Heart of an Extraordinary World”: Reflections on Entering into “Psychosis”‘

4.50 – 5.50 Second Keynote Address
Dr Barbara-Anne Wren (Consultant Psychologist, Royal Free London NHS Trust), ‘Paying Attention to Meaning: Using Narrative to Understand the Experience of Caring for Children and Young People’

5.50 – 6.00 Closing Comments

6.00 Drinks Reception

The conference is hosted by Dr Melissa Dickson (Birmingham), Dr Elizabeth Barrett (University College Dublin) and Professor Sally Shuttleworth (Oxford).

Edited photograph of Santiago Ramón y Cajal’s image of a nerve cell. Originally taken by Irene Tobón and posted on Flickr commons. Some rights reserved .

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

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Tuesday 29 January 2019 (Week 3)

Prof Anne-Julia Zwierlein, University of Regensburg

Monstrous Voices: (Female) Speaking Automata, Mind Science and Mass Mediation in Late-Nineteenth-Century British Fiction

The prelude to my talk sketches our ongoing DFG funded research project on ‘Lecturing Females: Oral Performances, Gender and Sensationalism in Metropolitan Lecturing Institutions and Mass Print Culture, 1860-1910’. Selecting one of the project’s central aspects, Victorian oratory and elocution and the question of vocal sound as the social-material dimension of human language, I then present a literary case study by (briefly) tracing the historical trajectory of monstrous/automatic voices in physiological psychology, sound technology, and Gothic and realist fiction from the mid-nineteenth century to the fin de siècle. Examining how in the context of the new modernity of mass mediation, sonic monstrosity (technologically or hypnotically induced) came to be theorised as a co-creation between performer, subject, and audience/readership who function as ‘sounding board’, the talk ends by revisiting some late-nineteenth-century feminist autobiographical accounts and suffrage novels/short stories which deployed representations of public speech acts as the climax of their conversion narratives. (Female) surrendered agency and mesmeric/spiritualist trance are here replaced by the performative channelling of a disembodied female collectivity, and a Gothic device – the chthonic, ghostly or automatized voice – is transformed into a vehicle of empowerment and (political) resonance.

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

 

Tuesday 12 February 2019 (Week 5)

Dr Ushashi Dasgupta, University of Oxford

Dickens’s Loneliness

‘The little bustling, active, cheerful creature, existed entirely within herself, talked to herself, made a confidante of herself’. The ‘cheerful creature’ is Miss La Creevy, who paints portraits and lets London lodgings for a living: she is a minor character in Dickens’s Nicholas Nickleby. Dickens was drawn to lonely characters like Miss La Creevy. This paper introduces them, and explores the ways in which Dickens negotiated the boundaries between solitude and loneliness over the course of his career. It will attempt to answer some of the following questions: what is the history of this emotion, is it a pathology, and how does literature work to define it? Do certain spaces or ways of living make us lonely? What is the relationship between geography, feeling, and health?

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


Wednesday 27 February 2019 (Week 7)

Professor Gowan Dawson, University of Leicester

huxley frontispiece - gowan

‘A Monkey into a Man’: Thomas Henry Huxley, Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins and the Making of an Evolutionary Icon

The frontispiece to Thomas Henry Huxley’s Evidence as to Man’s Place in Nature (1863), showing a sequence of primate skeletons becoming successively taller and more erect before finally reaching the upright human form, is one of the most iconic visual representations of evolution.  This paper will explore the personal tensions and intellectual conflicts amidst which the famous frontispiece was created, revealing the festering antagonism between Huxley and the artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins which makes the image far stranger and more ambiguous than has previously been recognized.

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

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

Sleep and Stress, Past and Present Schedule

7th December 2018

9:00am—5:00pm

Kohn Centre, The Royal Society

Our one-day interdisciplinary symposium in the Kohn Centre at the Royal Society, Sleep and Stress, Past and Present is this Friday 7 December. The programme is below and there are a few spaces left if you’d like to attend.

£30 delegate fee (£15 concessions) – please book here:  http://bit.ly/RSsleepandstress

Sleep and Stress is being co-organised by the Royal Society and Diseases of Modern Life, University of Oxford.

sched

Sleep and Stress, Past and Present

 

Sleep and Stress

7th December 2018

9:00am—5:00pm

Kohn Centre, The Royal Society

A one-day interdisciplinary symposium in the Kohn Centre at the Royal Society, Sleep and Stress, Past and Present brings together expert scientists, medical practitioners, historians and literary critics to discuss the intersections between sleep and stress, both historically and in contemporary society. Prof Russell Foster (Head of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute, University of Oxford) will give the keynote lecture.

Other speakers include: Prof Sally Shuttleworth (University of Oxford); Dr Tiffany Watts-Smith (QMUL); Dr Melissa Dickson (University of Birmingham); Prof Nick Franks (Imperial College London); Prof Clark Lawlor (Northumbria University); Prof Chris Fitzpatrick (University College Dublin); Prof Matthew Beaumont (University College London); Dr William MacLehose (University College London); and Prof Guy Goodwin (University of Oxford).

£30 delegate fee (£15 concessions) – please book here:  http://bit.ly/RSsleepandstress

Sleep and Stress is being co-organised by the Royal Society and Diseases of Modern Life, University of Oxford

Science, Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century Seminars in Michaelmas Term 2018

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Tuesday 23 October 2018 (Week 3)

 Dr Lauren Weiss and Prof Kirstie Blair, University of Strathclyde

 Science and the Mutual Improvement Society

Victorian Britain had hundreds, if not thousands, of societies devoted to the cause of self-improvement, many populated by aspiring working-class men (and, later in the century, women). Scientific discussion and debate was very important to these associations. This talk will focus on the little-known archive of their meetings records and the magazines that they produced, showing that these give us significant insight into how, why, and when societies discussed key scientific debates and development, and the ways in which scientific education was perceived as vital to the cause of mutual improvement.

This talk is delivered by Dr Lauren Weiss, whose PhD and postdoctoral research has focused on literary societies and mutual improvement magazines, and Prof Kirstie Blair, whose current research is focused on Scottish and Northern working-class literature and culture.

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

 

Wednesday 7 November 2018 (Week 5)

Dr Imogen Goold, University of Oxford and Dr Catherine Kelly, University of Bristol

Psychiatric Injury and the Hysterical Woman

In this paper, we examine the development of the English courts’ approach to negligently-inflicted psychiatric injury claims from an historical perspective, first tracing the development of the English court’s approach to psychiatric injury claims. We then offer an overview of how mental injury has been understood over the past two centuries, and the notion of the hysterical woman within this framework. We posit the idea that the current law can be best understood as a sympathetic reaction to the notion of the ‘hysterical woman’. We argue that this approach can both explain the early resistance to recognising such claims, but also the enthusiasm for compensation in others. We further argue that the rather confused and conflicting approaches in English law can be understood as a result of the lack of a clearly developed normative basis for compensation. This failure, we suggest, has arisen as a result of the reactive nature of the way in which the law has developed, which has undermined the courts’ development of a more ethically coherent and reasoned approach. We argue that an understanding of the background to the current law can aid in improving the coherency of this area of law in the future.

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

 

Tuesday 20 November 2018 (Week 7)

Dr Megan Coyer, University of Glasgow

Literature and Medicine in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Press: The Literary Doctor in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine

In the early nineteenth century, Edinburgh was the leading centre of medical education and research in Britain. It also laid claim to a thriving periodical culture. This paper explores the relationship between the medical culture of Romantic-era Scotland and the periodical press by examining the work of two key medically-trained contributors to Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, the most influential and innovative literary periodical of the era. I argue that the Romantic periodical press cultivated innovative ideologies, discourses, and literary forms that both reflected and shaped medical culture in the nineteenth century. In the case of Blackwood’s, the magazine’s distinctive Romantic ideology and experimental form enabled the development of an overtly ‘literary’ and humanistic popular medical culture, which participated in a wider critique of liberal Whig ideology in post-Enlightenment Scotland. The construction of the surgeon, sentimental poet, and prolific Blackwoodian contributor, David Macbeth Moir (1798–1851), as a literary surgeon within the magazine is briefly examined. Samuel Warren’s seminal series, Passages from the Diary of a Late Physician (1830–37), is then read in its vexed original publishing context – the ideologically charged popular periodical press – in terms of its inception and reception, as well as its initiation of a new genre of popular medical writing. The paper concludes by reflecting upon the need to further situate the writings and reception of nineteenth-century literary doctors in relation to specific cultural and textual contexts to unpack both the history of medical humanism and the broader relationship between medical and literary cultures during this period.

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

 

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

Image Credit: Wellcome Collection

Resuscitation, Reanimation and the Modern World

Oct 5

The conference will be held at Maison Française d’Oxford (2-10 Norham Road, OX2 6SE) on Friday 5th October (1pm-6pm) and Saturday 6th October (9.30am-4pm).

The conference seeks to explore the social, cultural, political, and medical aspects of reanimation and resuscitation from the early modern period to the present. From the emergence of societies ‘for the recovery of persons apparently drowned’ across Europe to the setting up of first-aid medical services, the subject of resuscitation has social and medical significance. Changing views about the obligation to save lives may also be indicative of a shift regarding the nature of death and the value of human life, involving both an increasingly secularized conception of the possibility of resurrection (famously explored in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, 1818), and the development of a society characterized by its understanding and management of risk.

‘Resuscitation, Reanimation and the Modern World’ will consider how these phenomena appeared as key concerns of the Enlightenment – initially as miraculous moments, then as displays of medical prowess and manifestations of civic responsibility. The aim of the meeting is to explore how these ideas and practices have developed through time in literary, popular, and medical narratives, as new technologies both ‘medicalised’ resuscitation and extended its practice beyond the medical arena. As a result, we aim to develop new insights, not only into the development and dissemination of medical knowledge but also into broader cultural issues such as citizenship and civic duty, the perception and management of risk, and changing notions of what it means to be human.

More information and the conference programme are available at:

http://www.mfo.cnrs.fr/fr/calendar/resuscitation-reanimation-and-the-modern-world/

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/workshop-resuscitation-reanimation-and-the-modern-world-tickets-50166729037

The conference is free to attend, with all refreshments provided, but please register your attendance via eventbrite (above). The venue is wheelchair accessible.

Resuscitation, Reanimation and the Modern World is organized by Marie Thébaud-Sorger (CNRS/Maison Française d’Oxford) and Jennifer Wallis (Imperial College London). We are grateful for the support of the British Society for the History of Science (BSHS), the Diseases of Modern Life project and the Faculty of History at the University of Oxford, the Maison Française d’Oxford (MFO), the Society for the Social History of Medicine (SSHM), and the Royal Historical Society (RHS).

EVENT – Victorian Speed: The Long History of Fast Living

Venue: Museum of the History of Science, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3AZ

18th October 2018

Stressed out by modern life? So were the Victorians! Enter the world of Victorian England in this museum ‘late’ for a fun evening of games, interactive exhibits, and short talks as you explore with researchers from the “Diseases of Modern Life” project the new technologies and sometimes bizarre medical treatments of the Victorian age.

Sessions run 6 – 7.30pm or 7.30 – 9pm.

This is a free, timed event. We strongly recommend you pre-book at ticket as spaces are limited. It may be possible to turn up on the night, but only if space allows. Book now at: https://if-oxford.com/event/victorian-speed-the-long-history-of-fast-living/

The Magic Mango

Written by Amelia Bonea Illustrated by Ioan Balcosi

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Amelia Bonea’s story The Magic Mango, published by Pratham Books’ StoryWeaver, is now available in 7 languages on the StoryWeaver website https://storyweaver.org.in/stories/27150-the-magic-mango

  1. এক টি জাদু আম (Bengali – L4)
  2. जादुई आम (Hindi – L4)
  3. ಮಾಯದ ಮಾವಿನ ಹಣ್ಣು (Kannada – L4)
  4. जादूई आंबा (Marathi – L4)
  5. மாயாஜால மாம்பழம் (Tamil – L4)
  6. A la recherche d’une mangue magique (French – L4)
  7. Sâmburele de mango fermecat (Romanian – L4)

Pratham Books is a not-for-profit publisher based in India, a spin-off of one of the largest non-governmental organizations in the country, whose mission is to put ‘a book into every child’s hand’. The StoryWeaver platform is part of their efforts to achieve this by publishing multilingual stories on a great variety of topics, from fantasy to science and nature, life skills, history and folktales. The platform currently features 9,060 stories in 118 languages from India and beyond. These can be used in classrooms as educational material (including for translation exercises) or read at home; they can also be saved to an offline library for those who do not have constant access to the internet.

Amelia and the book

Amelia’s collaboration with StoryWeaver began two years ago, when she volunteered to translate some of the stories on the platform into her mother tongue, Romanian. She was soon inspired to write her own story, which is loosely based on her first monograph about the history of telegraphy and journalism in colonial India. The Magic Mango is the outcome of her love for history and children’s books. It is the story of two siblings, Tara and Arun, who discover an old newspaper in their grandmother’s attic. They open it and embark on a historical adventure about a magic mango seed and a little boy who tried to telegraph it from India to London at the end of the nineteenth century.

Recently, Amelia ran a workshop for children at the local library in her hometown Satu Mare in Romania. She used this opportunity to read the story, but also to talk about what historians do and to show the children the only telegram she has ever received: a birthday message from her uncle, sent way back in 1989, about three months before the Romanian Revolution! The children then learned to send telegrams in Morse code, a skill they put to good use by sending messages to their family members, pets and various imaginary friends!
Story telling