Slaying Dragons and Talking to Stomachs: Science and Selfhood in the Nineteenth Century

Arts 103
Friday 8 March 2019 (16:00-18:00)
  • Speaker: Dr Emilie Taylor-Brown (Oxford)

England, 1853. A human stomach writes a book advising the general public on best dietetic practice. It recounts its life and its encounters with food adulteration, smoking, alcohol, love, marriage and eventually old age. The book is universally well-reviewed and runs to 5 editions. India, 1897. In the drenching heat, British doctor Ronald Ross is looking down the cracked eyepiece of his microscope at the dissected body of a mosquito. Underneath the glass he finds what he is looking for—proof that the mosquito is a vector for the malaria parasite. He shrieks, pushes the microscope away, and rushes to his desk to find a pen. He must commemorate this moment by writing a poem!

In this talk Dr Emilie Taylor-Brown unites these seemingly disparate episodes in the history of nineteenth-century medicine by exploring the dynamic relationships erected between literature and science in this period. Focusing on the use of the literary forms of memoir, romance, and adventure, and on the professional politics that undergird communicating science to the public, she examines how stories of science are also stories of individual, professional, and national selfhood.

Organised by the Nineteenth-Century Centre.

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