Video / Audio  Medical Humanities

Sasha Turner (Quinnipiac U), Contested Bodies: Pregnancy, Childrearing and Slavery in Jamaica (2017) Deirdre Cooper Owens (CUNY, Queens College), Medical Bondage: Race, Gender and the Origins of American Gynecology (2017) Respondents: Christopher Florio (SoF/Heyman) & Cristobal Silva (English and Comparative Literature) Chair: Arden Hegele (SoF/Heyman)​

Rob Boddice (Freie Universität Berlin / McGill University), “Representing Experiment: Medical Science and the Art of Public Relations, 1908-14” Respondent: Thomas Dodman (French) Chair: Warren Kluber (SoF/Heyman Graduate Fellow)

Roanne Kantor (Stanford, Comparative Literature) Nicole Wallack (University Writing Program) Rishi Goyal (ICLS-Medicine, Literature and Society) Chair: Lan Li (CSS/PSSN)

Beyond Physicians: Health and Individual Responsibility in History

Video: Frankenstein at 200

October 26, 2018

2018 marks the two-hundredth anniversary of Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein – a book about birth, death, fragmentation, monstrosity, and knowledge that continues to haunt contemporary thought and culture. In the two centuries since its publication, readers have variously interpreted Frankenstein as a cautionary tale of scientific hubris, an allegory of motherhood, a political commentary, and a gothic horror. Meanwhile, the loquacious monster at the heart of the novel has left the book to become a figure of inarticulacy and terror in the popular imagination. Recent scholarship on Frankenstein juggles between these polarities, while also considering manuscript evidence of a collaborative writing process shared by Mary Shelley and her poet husband Percy.

This talk traces a genealogy of affect theory from the early modern era through to the present day, establishing the central significance of music for this history. It demonstrates that the theory of affect we have inherited today has its origins in eighteenth-century aesthetic debates concerning music’s capacity to function as a sign and to move its listeners. In the early modern era, the affects were important components of an elaborate semiotic system that sought to explain the impact of art. Today, by stark contrast, affect is often explicitly opposed to theories of the sign and of representation; theorists describe affect as corporeal and immediate, working on our autonomic systems. The genealogy elaborated in this paper shows how affect theories became separated from theories of representation, and it illustrates the central and surprising role that music played in this separation.

n 1872, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "Science does not know its debt to imagination," words that still ring true in the worlds of health and health care today. We know a great deal about the empirical aspects of medicine, but we know far less about what the medical imagination is, what it does, how it works, or how we might train it. But it was not always so. In this lecture, Sari Altschuler will be talking about her new book on the history of the medical imagination. During the 18th and 19th centuries in the United States, doctors understood the imagination to be directly connected to health, intimately involved in healing, and central to medical discovery. Literature provided health writers important forms for crafting, testing, and implementing theories of health. Reading and writing poetry trained judgment, cultivated inventiveness, sharpened observation, and supplied evidence for medical research, while novels and short stories offered new sites for experimenting with original medical theories. Health research and practice relied on a broader complex of knowing, in which imagination often worked with observation, experience, and empirical research. In reframing the historical relationship between literature and health, The Medical Imagination provides a usable past for our own conversations about the imagination and the humanities in health research and practice today.

This talk contrasts the drug testing methods of two sixteenth-century alchemical empirics. Andreas Berthold validated his Paracelsian poison antidote (also deemed a cure-all) by letting learned physicians conduct poison trials at German courts, in which test subjects (several dogs and a convict) took poison, followed by the antidote. Georg Amwald, in contrast, scoffed at this method and instead included patient testimonial letters as evidence of the efficacy of his panacea poison antidote - a method also used by earlier alchemists such as Leonardo Fioravanti but derided by physicians. These cases elucidate the tricky problem of proof and evidence in early modern drug testing. While poison trials were used at princely courts all over Europe and appeared to give a definitive answer, they could also be dismissed as singular tricks. Testimonial letters, meanwhile, had perceived problems of trustworthiness. I argue that the boundaries of proof were contested and depended largely on the professional designation of the tester.