Narrative in Question Seminar 7

Wednesday 31 May 2017, 4.00PM to 5.30pm

Mark Jenner (History): 'What you drink is what you write? Diet, dullness and medical writing in Restoration and Augustan England'

Narrative is a central theme in theoretical discussions of historical writing, which is after all regularly concerned with outlining in an intelligible fashion the succession of events through time. While hoping to flag up these wider historiographical and theoretical themes, this talk engages with accounts of narrative in a more particular sub-field. Much of the history of medicine (and sections of the medical humanities) rests on a dichotomy between the patient's narrative on one hand and the clinical gaze or the doctor's narrative on the other, a dichotomy outlined in some highly influential articles by the sociologist Norman Jewson who gave a peculiar spin on Foucault’s work.

Examining a number of late C17 and early C18 examples, including numerous water cure disputes, I suggest that this is unhelpfully reductive. First, a number of texts contain narratives wherein practitioners tell of their own bodies. Secondly, a number of therapetic disputes develop arguments shaped by dietics and poetics in which the physiology of the author and the nature of their language are entangled. It concludes by examining the problematic place for poetics in the discussions of medical narrative - what does narrative do with verse, what does verse do to narrative?

[Apologies from Alice Hall (English), who has had to cancel her presentation, 'Disability and narrative: Kenzaburō Ōe's fiction.' ]


Narrative in Question is an ICNS research programme for Spring and Summer terms 2017, bringing together visiting speakers and York researchers with narrative-related interests. The core events are a series of seminars and guest lectures, and a culminating workshop featuring international contributors and a workshop focussed upon developing an interdisciplinary research project.

The idea for the programme is that the question of narrative provides a conceptual hub for dialogue amongst participants with widely divergent individual research agendas. The seminars will feature individual research projects in which the issue of narrative is fundamentally at stake. All project participants share a concern to put narrative in question, whether as a theoretical concept, as a mode of discourse or cognition, as a particular corpus or tradition, as a set of formal devices and techniques, as a use of specific media, or as a research methodology.

See the full programme of events

Location: Seminar Room BS/008, Humanities Research Centre, Berrick Saul Building, University of York Campus West

Email: richard.walsh@york.ac.uk

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