Medical Humanities

Thanks to Neil Vickers, I got to meet many of the graduate students in the medical humanities today! We got the chance to hear about each other’s research and had a fascinating discussion. I was impressed by the diversity and depth of projects that students at KCL are doing. Overall, it was a great afternoon! 


Research, research, and more research

I’ve been remiss in posting for the last few days, but honestly I thought my minor adventures in the British Library would be uninteresting. Nonetheless, here’s an update! The last few days I’ve spent in the BL reading a total of 43 almanacs so far (they’re only about 20 pages each, so it’s not that impressive). In any case, besides the value that I’m getting out of expanding my understanding of these texts, I’m also acquiring a sense of how things run at the BL. I now know where the lockers are, how long the line is for tea, and that you can leave your stuff at your desk when you need to go grab lunch. Before I knew this, sadly, I was gathering everything up each time I left the reading room. Tomorrow should be much more exciting. I’m meeting up with a group of medical humanities scholars at KCL. I’ll get a sense of what type of research is being done here and hope to post about it tomorrow. 

Marathon BL Day

There are milestones that every scholar has to pass: first conference, first time teaching, and, for me, the first entire day spent doing research on rare materials. Although I have spent time looking at 16th and 17th century texts before, this was an inaugural day in which I devoted 8 hours to sitting still and squinting at the black letter type of early modern almanacs. Gratefully, in between talks and meetings this week, I have time to fit in this marathon of research. The highlight? Discovering that 16th century almanacs often advise against heavy meats in the Spring, which consequently means that I went for a light salad at lunch in the British Library cafe.

In the Library and at King’s

Today has been quite busy. I spent the morning, for the first time, researching in the British Library. Yesterday I had stopped by to pick up my reader’s card, which was incredibly easy to do. In typical anxious fashion, I had brought five forms of ID, but they only needed two. After gently laughing at my over-preparedness, I was issued my card. Online, I put in the texts I wanted to look at and started this morning off in the reading room.

Because this is my first attempt at serious, sustained research, I was a bit nervous. What if I sneezed too loudly? What if I was over- or under-dressed? Fortunately, I had a great experience today. The staff was incredibly kind, the other readers studious but polite, and I was able to get a lot of work done.

I then went over to King’s and met with Neil Vickers for lunch. Dr. Vickers is in the medical humanities cohort at KCL and we got the chance to chat about my research, connecting UNC scholars with KCL faculty and graduate students, and, in particular, discussed what work Dr. Vickers’s own students are conducting. Overall, it was a great conversation and I now have a more solid sense of what kind of research those in the medical humanities here do.

I rounded off the afternoon by attending a talk given by Dr. Barbara Osimani. I’ll admit that at first I got lost and had to ask about ten different people how to find the seminar room. Once there, though, I learned about current epistemic and logical problems in pharmaceutical testing.

Now I’m back at the British Library reading up on some secondary criticism. Later tonight I’m catching a performance of Wicked!

Travels, KCL, and Meat Pies!

Welcome to my UNC/KCL blog! In this first post, I’m will tell you a little about myself, why I’m in London, and what I hope to do while I’m here.

To begin, my name is Katie Walker and I’m a second year Ph.D. student in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (UNC). My own research focuses on early modern texts, particularly drama, and medical discourses in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Currently, I’m exploring how early modern almanacs might articulate more popular understandings of the body and how these texts are ridiculed or reaffirmed in the drama of the period.

Given my interests in medicine, the body, and science studies more broadly, I’ve recently turned to the medical humanities as a specialization and as a set of theoretical tools in my way of approaching texts. Fortuitously, both UNC and King’s College London (KCL) have faculty and students interested in the same kinds of questions that I am: how do literature and medicine interact, collide, agree and disagree, or how can the two disciplines help each other understand aspects of our lived experiences, both in texts and in the body?

These scholarly questions bring to me why I am here: not only am I conducting research at the British Library, but I’m also meeting with and discussing future collaboration with KCL faculty and students.

My trip in London started, wonderfully, with a conference titled “Shakespeare, Memory, and Culture.” This two day conference, hosted by KCL, was organized by graduate students Philippe Roesle and Hannah Crumme. This conference is part of a three-year conference exchange between KCL and UNC. The first gathering, titled “Shakespeare and the Natural World” was held in Spring 2012 at UNC. Next spring, KCL graduate students and faculty will be crossing the Atlantic for another graduate student conference at UNC.

On the UNC side, faculty members Mary Floyd-Wilson and David Baker presented keynotes, and my colleagues Jennifer Park, Ani Govjian, Kevin Chovanec and I read papers on our current research, which ranges from questions of history and humor, preservatives and cosmetics, and revenge. Philippe and Hannah did a fantastic job in organizing the panels with both KCL and UNC students in each, which enabled us to have many conversations regarding the intersections of the work that the graduate students from both institutions are conducting. All of the papers at this two-day conference spoke to the ways in which early modern literature, particularly Shakespeare’s work, engages with other texts and ideas of the period and beyond. Both days of the conference concluded with a fantastic dinner, during which I was able to sample a famous British staple: meat pie (steak and ale)!

For the next two weeks, I shift focus a bit and will attend talks and meet with faculty and students in the Medical Humanities at KCL. I’m excited to hear about the scholarship and collaboration conducted here at KCL, and I hope to bring this knowledge and these new relationships back to UNC and share them with my colleagues. At UNC, a growing cohort of faculty and students are conducting research in the medical humanities and hope to continue our relationship with KCL, perhaps with working groups, collaborative projects, and future conferences.

For the next few weeks, I’ll be blogging about my experiences here at KCL. You’ll read about my research, who I meet, what collective plans and projects we envision, and, importantly, how many meat pies I consume in the space of fourteen days.