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Lunch Lecture - Katharina Boehm: Experimental Subjects: Literature and Theatrical Medical Trials in the Nineteenth Century

When Jun 26, 2014
from 02:15 PM to 03:00 PM
Where Universität Freiburg, KG I, HS 1015
Contact Name
Attendees öffentlich/open to all
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In the middle of the nineteenth century, the so-called ‘mesmeric mania’ swept England. Medical doctors, parents and educators experimented with mesmerism – a form of hypnotism that put children in a trance-like state – in order to explore the workings of the child’s mind and to cure various children’s diseases. My talk investigates a controversial series of public mesmerist experiments at University College Hospital and their repercussions in contemporary press articles and works of literature. Many mesmerist debates about child subjects were driven by tensions between contrasting understandings of the body as part of the human self on the one hand, and as an object of scientific inquiry on the other. The medical trials at University College Hospital open a window onto the battles which doctors, parents, journalists and literary writers fought about the meanings of childhood and health, about the nature of empirical evidence and the definition of scientific truth. They also offer fascinating insight into the traffic of ideas between medical and literary discourses in the mid-Victorian era.