Dr Melissa Dickson

Dr Melissa Dickson

Department of English Literature
Lecturer in Victorian literature

Contact details

Address
Arts Building, Room 246
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B15 2TT
UK

My research focuses on the relationships between Victorian literature, science, medicine, and material culture. I am particularly interested in the study and depiction of the senses and in particular on new ways of listening and thinking about sound in the nineteenth century. My current work is on explorations of the body’s physiological and psychological responses to sound and music in the nineteenth century. I teach across the long nineteenth century.

Qualifications

  • PhD (King’s College, London)
  • BA (Hons), MPhil (University of Queensland, Australia)

Biography

I joined the department in January 2018, having worked for nearly 4 years as a Postdoctoral Researcher on ‘The Diseases of Modern Life’, an ERC funded project based at St Anne’s College, Oxford, investigating nineteenth-century cultural, literary, and medical understandings of stress, overwork, and other disorders associated in the period with the problems of modernity. I have a PhD in English from King's College, London, and an MPhil, BA, and University Medal from the University of Queensland, Australia.

Teaching

I convene the second year module ‘Victorian Literature’ and the specialist third year module ‘Nineteenth-Century Detective Fiction’.  I lecture and lead seminars on these courses. I also convene and lead workshops on the MA module ‘Nineteenth-Century Senses’, and contribute workshops to the MA module ‘Nineteenth-Century Voices’.

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome research projects and postgraduate supervision in any of (and any combination of) the following areas within nineteenth-century studies:
• Literature and Science
• Literature and Medicine
• Literature and Music
• Representations of the Senses
• Empire and the Orient
• Material Culture


Find out more - our PhD English Literature  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.

Research

My doctoral thesis, entitled Under Its Spell: The Arabian Nights in Early Nineteenth-Century Culture, investigated the proliferation and reception of the Arabian Nights in the print and material culture of early nineteenth-century Britain. Tracing the presence and use of the Arabian Nights in British theatre, travel writing, children's literature, fiction, and poetry, I argued that this protean story collection, one that was known since childhood and intimately associated with the childhood consciousness, was not simply a fantastic other against which to measure and define the imperial self; it was an integral component of that self, its imagination, its memories, and its dreams. This research will be published as a monograph entitled Cultural Encounters with the Arabian Nights in the Nineteenth Century by Edinburgh University Press in August 2019.

As a Postdoctoral Researcher on ‘Diseases of Modern Life’, an ERC funded project based at St Anne’s College, Oxford, I was part of a team investigating nineteenth-century cultural, literary, and medical understandings of stress, overwork, and other disorders associated in the period with the problems of modernity. My own work within the project focussed on education and overpressure, and nervous disorders and phobias, and I am currently completing a monograph on explorations of the body’s physiological and psychological responses to sound and music in the nineteenth century, tentatively entitled Listening at the Threshold.

Other activities

I am a member of the British Association of Victorian Studies, the British Society of Literature and Science, the Australian Federation of University Women, and the North American Victorian Studies Association. I am also a Fellow of Goodenough College, London.

With colleagues at St Anne’s College, Oxford, and UCD Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, I am also working to build a network of researchers, service users, and medical practitioners who meet around a series of seminars and conference, and seek to explore the patient experience through the prism of literature and personal narrative to inform patient-centred care and practice. A successful pilot conference took place in Dublin in March 2017 (programme details here). 

Publications

Recent publications

Book

Taylor-Pirie, E, Dickson, M & Shuttleworth, S (eds) 2020, Progress and Pathology: Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century. Manchester University Press. https://doi.org/10.7765/9781526147547

Bonea, A, Dickson, M, Shuttleworth, S & Wallis, J 2019, Anxious times: medicine and modernity in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Science and Culture in the Nineteenth Century, University of Pittsburgh Press. <https://www.upress.pitt.edu/books/9780822945512/>

Dickson, M 2019, Cultural Encounters with the Arabian Nights in Nineteenth-Century Britain. Edinburgh Critical Studies in Victorian Culture, Edinburgh University Press. <https://edinburghuniversitypress.com/book-cultural-encounters-with-the-arabian-nights-in-nineteenth-century-britain-hb.html>

Article

Dickson, M 2020, 'Dickens’s nightmare: dreams, memory and trauma', Interface Focus, vol. 10, no. 3.

Barrett, E, Dickson, M, Hayes-Brady, C & Wheelock, H 2020, 'Storytelling and poetry in the time of Coronavirus', The Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, vol. 37, no. 4, pp. 278-282. https://doi.org/10.1017/ipm.2020.36

Dickson, M, Barrett, E & Wheelock, H 2020, 'The Threads of History: Why record your Pandemic Experiences for the RCPI archive?', The Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1017/ipm.2020.48

Dickson, M, Shuttleworth, S & Taylor-Brown, E 2019, 'Structures of Confinement: Power and Problems of Male Identity', Journal of Victorian Culture, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 137-145. https://doi.org/10.1093/jvcult/vcy074

Taylor-Pirie, E, Dickson, M & Shuttleworth, S 2019, 'Structures of Confinement: Power and Problems of Male Identity', Journal of Victorian Culture, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 137-145. https://doi.org/10.1093/jvcult/vcy074

Dickson, M 2017, 'Confessions of an English Green Tea Drinker: Sheridan Le Fanu and the Medical and Metaphysical Dangers of Green Tea', Victorian Literature and Culture, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 77-94. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1060150316000449

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Dickson, M & Shuttleworth, S 2020, Disorders of the Age: Nervous Climates. in Literature and Medicine in the Nineteenth Century. vol. 1, Cambridge University Press.

Dickson, M 2019, Hats, cloaks, and stethoscopes: the symbolic fashions of the nineteenth-century medical practitioner. in N Moody & J Hatter (eds), Fashion and Material Culture in Victorian Fiction and Periodicals. New Paths in Victorian Literature and Culture series, Edward Everett Root.

Dickson, M 2017, Charles Wheatstone’s Enchanted Lyre and the Spectacle of Sound. in JQ Davies & E Lockhart (eds), Sound knowledge: music and science in London, 1789-1851. University of Chicago Press, pp. 125-144. <https://www.press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/S/bo24550652.html>

Anthology

Shuttleworth, S, Dickson, M & Taylor-Brown, E (eds) 2020, Progress and Pathology: Medicine and Culture in the Nineteenth Century. Social Histories of Medicine, Manchester University Press. <https://manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9781526133687/>

Book/Film/Article review

Dickson, M 2019, 'Figures of the Imagination: Fiction and Song in Britain, 1790-1850. By Roger Hansford. (Music in Nineteenth-Century Britain). London: Routledge. 2017. xvi + 301 pp. £95. ISBN 978-1-4724-7137-6.', Modern Language Review, vol. 114, no. 1, pp. 125-126. https://doi.org/10.5699/modelangrevi.114.1.0125 https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5699/modelangrevi.114.1.0125

Special issue

Taylor-Pirie, E, Dickson, M & Shuttleworth, S (eds) 2019, 'New Agenda', Journal of Victorian Culture, vol. 24, no. 2. <https://academic.oup.com/jvc/issue/24/2>

View all publications in research portal