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Call for Papers: Fashionable Diseases: Medicine, Literature and Culture, ca. 1660-1832

28 Jan, 14 | by Deborah Bowman

An International Interdisciplinary Conference

Newcastle and Northumbria Universities

3rd – 5th July 2014

 

Keynote speakers include:
Professor Helen Deutsch, ‘Diseases of Writing’

University of California, Los Angeles

Author of Resemblance and Disgrace: Alexander Pope and the Deformation of Culture

 

Dr David Shuttleton, ‘The Fashioning of Fashionable Diseases in the Eighteenth Century’

University of Glasgow

Author of Smallpox and the Literary Imagination

 

Between 1660 and 1832 books such as Cheyne’s English Malady and Adair’s Essays on Fashionable Diseases created a substantial debate on the relationship between fashion and sickness, linking melancholy, the vapours, nervousness, gout, consumption and many other conditions with the elite and superior sensibility. This conference aims to include voices from both within the social and medical elite and beyond, and to look at diseases that have not previously been examined in this context and at what can be learned from ‘unfashionable’ illnesses. It also aims to consider not only diseases associated with social prestige, but also with the medical critique of fashionable luxurious lifestyles, and the debate on ‘imaginary’ diseases. The role of culture in creating, framing and spreading conceptions of fashionable disease will also be considered.

 

Proposals for papers and three-person panels are welcome on topics related to fashionable diseases, including:

  • Patient experience
  • Consumer society and the ‘medical marketplace’
  • Culture (literature, music, etc) and fashionable disease
  • Geographical meanings – travel literature and spa culture
  • Morality, politics and medicine in critiques of fashionable lifestyles
  • Satire, stigma, fashion
  • ‘Imaginary’ diseases
  • Class, gender, race, religion, etc
  • Unfashionable diseases

 

We are also keen to receive proposals offering interdisciplinary and internationally comparative perspectives, or relating eighteenth-century to contemporary fashionable diseases.

Please submit abstracts (max. 250 words) and a brief biography (max 100 words) to enquiries@fashionablediseases.info by 28 February 2014 http://fashionablediseases.info/

 

James Poskett: Naval Expertise Conference, May 10-11 2013

4 Aug, 12 | by James Poskett

For those regularly following this blog, you’ll know I’m keen on exploring how maritime and medical history can be brought together, particularly with respect to developing critical global histories of both. If you share my enthusiasm, you might be interested in the following conference, due to take place 10-11th May 2013 at Wolfson College, University of Oxford.

Naval Expertise and the Making of the Modern World

One of the four major themes of the conference is ‘science and medicine’ including ‘the management of disease at sea’, so it would be great to see interested parties either presenting or attending. The call for papers is open now, with a deadline of 31st October 2012, and registration will open later in the year.

James Poskett: Digital surgeons at sea

30 May, 12 | by James Poskett

A few months ago I was raving about the prospects of a maritime history of medicine, the ship’s medicine chest being the focus of some of my latest studies.

Since writing that piece, the Wellcome Trust and National Archives have completed the digitisation of the Royal Navy Medical Officers’ journals. The project, entitled Surgeons at Sea, allows budding maritime historians to view and search over 1000 records online, encompassing the years 1793 to 1880.

There’s a really diverse range of themes to be uncovered. For those interested in everything from shark bites to venereal disease (and, of course, that all-pervasive medical tonic: rum), I’d certainly recommend taking the time to browse.

James Poskett: Medicine adrift at sea

21 Feb, 12 | by James Poskett

You’re on board a small British merchant ship in the English Channel and you start to feel very ill. There’s no doctor on board. What do you do? If the year is 1844, you’re in luck. The Government has recently made it compulsory for all merchant vessels to carry medicines, to be kept in a small wooden chest. So open up, take a swig of the laudanum, and relax.

But before you drift off into an opiate-induced stupor, take a moment to consider the history of how a very particular set of drugs ended up on every British merchant ship. It’s a topic that started to interest me as I stumbled upon a collection of tiny pamphlets, each designed to be slipped inside one of the drawers of the ship’s medicine chest. With titles such as The Guide-Book to the Government Medicine Chest, they list the medicines to be taken aboard along with directions for use. Well before anything resembling the National Health Service, let alone the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, we have a government mandate to stock certain medicines. So, these chests, along with the accompanying pamphlets, provide a fantastic opportunity to study the early history of public health and the regulation of drugs.

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James Poskett: Material and visual culture of conferences

9 Dec, 11 | by James Poskett

Conferences can be somewhat dry affairs. Papers delivered as long droning monologues are liable to send even the most hardened academics into a dreary stupor. The more enticing discussions can also take their toll as the days wear on, debate often returning to ancient disputes. So what better way to break up the day and keep everyone fresh than with an outing to the cinema?

At the recent Communicating Reproduction conference we were all sent to see Helga (1967). Of course, this outing wasn’t frivolous but rather an opportunity for us to engage with the substance of the conference: the history of reproduction through communication including text, images, film and sound.

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James Poskett: Stories of psychology

12 Oct, 11 | by James Poskett

Who are the big names in the history of child psychology? Anna Freud? Melanie Klein? John Bowlby? Certainly. But, according to Professor Sally Shuttleworth, in order to locate the origins of child psychology, we have to look to nineteenth-century literature, to authors such as George Eliot and Charles Dickens.

This is just one of the historical titbits to come out of the recent Stories of Psychology conference, ran by the British Psychological Society at the Wellcome Trust. In her paper, entitled Studying the Child in the Nineteenth Century, Shuttleworth argued that the emerging genre of the nineteenth-century novel was the first to take the psychological world of the child seriously. Whilst previous works may have dealt with comings of age, novels such as Dickens’s Dombey and Son began to investigate the psychological world of the child in its own right, particularly within the context of education. (In the novel, Dombey’s son has difficultly socialising and is sent to a number of medical and educational establishments in order to rectify this shortcoming.)

Shuttleworth believes that such literary explorations were picked up by the psychologists and educationalists of the time, citing as evidence the way in which psychological theories were put to use in debates over compulsory education.

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James Poskett: Retrospective diagnosis – it’s not (all) bad

1 Sep, 11 | by James Poskett

Did Julius Caesar suffer from epilepsy? Was Mad King George mad? Did Tutankhamun have Klippel-Feil syndrome?

Retrospective diagnosis, particularly of notable historical figures, makes me feel uneasy. For one, it seems to fly in the face of contemporary historiography in which diseases are recognised as influenced by the social, historical and linguistic context. Even the more contextually sensitive attempts can sometimes feel little more than a game, an historically embellished version of a multiple choice question.

So why did I read (and enjoy) The hallucinations of Frédéric Chopin, in which the authors add temporal lobe epilepsy to the Romantic composer’s lengthy list of ailments?

http://mh.bmj.com/content/37/1/5.full

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Eating yourself sick in pregnancy: why it would be NICE to understand the historical context

1 Aug, 10 | by Deborah Kirklin

Earlier this month the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence produced very welcome guidance  for all of those who have a direct or indirect role in, and responsibility for women who are pregnant or who are planning a pregnancy and mothers who have had a baby in the last 2 years.

http://guidance.nice.org.uk/PH27

As a GP I welcome this guidance. Like everyone working in healthcare in the UK today I am acutely aware of the importance of this issue. Nevertheless I find myself asking where, amongst all the important and interesting information in this guidance is the historical context for the nutritional status of pregnant women? How, in other words, did we move, within a matter of two or three generations, from a time when the health of babies and mothers were threatened by insufficient calories and nutrition to a time when a surfeit is now the problem? more…

Believing Without Seeing

11 Jan, 10 | by Ayesha Ahmad

Esref Armagan was born blind in Ankara, Turkey. He has now become a famous artist due to his sheer talent and also due to certain significant and unusual reasons. His art displays the colour, vividness, light, dark, imagination and perspective that we are used to considering as the gifts of sight. Esref is changing the meaning of what it is to see the world.

Whilst taking part in a documentary with the University of Toronto, he exclaimed: “why would I want to see when I can see so much more with my hands?” These words fall upon us at a time where medicine is advancing through producing images of our body that otherwise we are blind to, such as fMRI, X-Rays, CT scans. We are looking into how we can perceive the human body in its finest detail. Our direction of what it means to achieve the fullest understanding of the internal physical world of the body is engaged with finding what is hidden. more…

The beauty of the beast that is Australia: unforgiving and unforgettable

10 Jun, 09 | by Deborah Kirklin

Half a lifetime ago I went to Australia for my medical elective, a joyous interlude just before finals that allows doctors-to-be to savour, for one last time, the freedom of life as a student. Eight weeks is barely time to get over the jetlag let alone to adjust to the stark and breathtaking landscapes that unfurl in any journey across this large and mystifying country. Yet long enough to leave the lasting impression that no matter how impressive the delights of Sydney and Melbourne and Australia’s other cities and towns, this is a country only a blink away from submission to its own awesome forces of nature.

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