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Dr Fay Bound Alberti



BA (Wales), MA (York), DPhil (York)

Fay Bound Alberti works on the history of medicine, gender, emotion and the body. Her books include Matters of the Heart: History, Medicine and Emotion (2010) and This Mortal Coil: The Human Body in History and Culture (2016). Her book on the history of loneliness - A Biography of Loneliness: The History of an Emotion - will be published by Oxford University Press in 2019. Fay was recently awarded a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship for her work on the emotional and cultural history of face transplants. She is currently writing a book on faces, ethics and identity.



Fay is a cultural historian with specialisms in the histories of gender, emotion, medicine, science and the body. She is interested in the ways beliefs and ideas about the body and the mind/body relationship help produce and uphold theories of gender, ethnicity and difference. Her work is interdisciplinary and uses skills from literary theory, anthropology and sociology to explore the ways meaning is produced in different contexts. Fay's work has focused on the UK and Europe (and between the seventeenth and twenty-first centuries), though her current research involves Anglo-American comparisons and work in China from the 1950s to the present.


Fay’s book, Matters of the Heart: History, Medicine and Emotion (2010) explores the complex, evolving relationships between heart as concept and symbol and heart as organ. It traces the emergence of the modern heart as an object of science from the eighteenth century, though one that still retains earlier, humoral ideas about the heart as the centre of the soul, emotions and the self. These concepts continue in the heartfelt, heartwarming languages of feeling. 

This Mortal Coil: The Human Body in History and Culture (2016) examines the meaning of the body in all its parts. Tracing the history of particular organs - from the brain to the gut, from the breasts to the tongue - it shows how some organs might be more emotional than others, but all are permeated by beliefs about gender, ethnicity and difference.

Fay’s newest book, A Biography of Loneliness: The History of an Emotion (2019) explores the relatively recent origins of a language of loneliness. Using a series of case studies from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century, it rejects the idea that loneliness is a universal mental affliction (and necessarily bad), and draws attention to its historical causes and ‘pinch-points’ that include socioeconomic status, gender, age, ethnicity and religious beliefs. Asserting the importance of bodily feeling, and the difference between loneliness and social isolation, A Biography of Loneliness challenges the political treatment of loneliness as a twenty-first century ‘epidemic’.

Fay's current project, About Face, which is funded by a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, traces the emotional and cultural histories of facial disfigurement, reconstruction and transplantation between the 1950s and the present. Building on Fay’s research on the history of cosmetic surgery (and advisory work for the Nuffield Council on Bioethics), and her work on heart transplantation and bodily identity, this project brings an interdisciplinary lens to the recent emergence of face transplants as a viable form of surgical innovation. 

About Face connects to Fay’s wider interests in identity, gender, technology and ‘looks', especially in the digital age, and the links between appearance matters, emotional health and wellbeing. 



Fay is currently not teaching as she is engaged full-time on her UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship. She is interested in hearing from students wishing to pursue doctoral research into the histories of emotion, the body, gender, loneliness and medicine between the eighteenth century and the present. Comparative and international dimensions especially welcome. 

External activities


Fay is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. 

Fay has worked at a senior level for funding organisations (including Head of Philanthropy for the Arcadia Fund and Head of Medical Humanities Grants for the Wellcome Trust).

Editorial duties

Fay is a peer reviewer for funding organisations, including the AHRC, ESRC, ERC and the Wellcome Trust.

Contact details

Dr Fay Bound-Alberti
Vanbrugh College V/119
Department of History
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: Internal 6426, External (01904) 326426