Medical Humanities Discussion Group

Our Glasgow medical humanities discussion group meets regularly throughout the year. In the academic year 2017-2018, this group is organised and convened by Dr Manon Mathias, a Lecturer in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. The discussion group is a forum for work-in-progress presentations and friendly discussion. All are welcome! If you would like further information, or to propose a paper, please contact Manon.

The meetings will all take place between 1-2pm in Room 216, the Hetherington Building, at Glasgow University. Refreshments will be provided.

We are very pleased to announce the times and topics for this Semester’s presentations:   


Wednesday 27th September

Sarah Phelan (Lord Kelvin/Adam Smith PhD in Medical Humanities, University of Glasgow), “The ‘Dream Books’ and 1930s Glasgow Psychiatry: Untangling Psychoanalytic and ‘Common Sense’ Patient Narratives”

This presentation discusses the largely unknown Scottish psychiatrist, Thomas Ferguson Rodger (1907-1978), exploring the most intractable material from his archive: six manuscript ‘dream books’ from the 1930s. Rodger was Professor of Psychological Medicine at the University of Glasgow from 1948-1973, with his Department based at the Southern General Hospital. There, he advocated an ‘eclectic’ psychiatric approach, combining physical treatments such as tranquilisers and ECT with an adapted form of psychoanalytic-psychotherapy, centred upon the importance of relationships. This presentation expands upon the origins of Rodger’s psychotherapy, through investigating his 1930s experimental dream analysis of five male patients while Deputy Superintendent of Glasgow Royal Mental Hospital (Gartnavel).

Situating Scottish psychiatry’s uptake of psychoanalysis in terms of the ‘therapeutic pessimism’ of early twentieth century psychiatry (Hinshelwood 1998), I describe Rodger’s interwar psychoanalytic-psychotherapy as environmentally attuned and as acculturated to his Glaswegian clinical locale. I trace this to Rodger’s foremost psychiatric influences: David Henderson, Gartnavel’s authoritative superintendent, and Adolf Meyer, of the Phipps Clinic in Baltimore. Focusing upon transcribed dream analytic sessions, I explore how Rodger’s psychoanalysis was tempered by a pragmatic ‘common sense’ therapeutic attitude, and position his dream analysis as one of the avenues through which the psychosocial impressed itself upon 1930s Glasgow psychiatry.

Hinshelwood, R. D. ‘The Organizing of Psychoanalysis in Britain. Psychoanalysis and History 1.1 (1998): 87-102.


Wednesday 18 October

Dr Douglas Small (Wellcome Trust Research Fellow in Literature and Medicine, University of Glasgow), “Cocaine, Edward Weston, and Victorian Sports Doping”

Recent sporting scandals like those involving Justin Gatlin and Lance Armstrong have ensured that the issue of sports doping is seemingly never far from the public eye. Revelations of drug-use in professional sport are typically met with anger and condemnation. Discussions of performance-enhancing drugs tend to be suffused with a rhetoric of criminality and disease: doping as a “cancer” within sport is a common image.

This was far from the case in 1876, however, when the famous long-distance walker Edward Weston was revealed to have chewed coca leaves (the source of cocaine) throughout a 24-hour endurance race at London’s Agricultural Hall. Instead of anger, the Victorian public reacted with enthusiastic interest. The Glasgow Herald wrote that coca was “very interesting” and likely to have many “popular applications.” The Telegraph enthused that “the coca leaf is a plant to which scientific men cannot too soon turn their attention.”  This paper considers why Victorian commentators were so willing to accept performance-enhancing drugs as a beneficial (even necessary) aids to sporting achievement, and the implications of this for constructions of athletic ‘performance’ more broadly.


Wednesday 15 November

Speaker: Dr Zaman Shahaduz (Wellcome Trust Research Fellow, School of Interdisciplinary Studies, University of Glasgow) ‘Common or multiple futures for end of life care interventions around the world? Ideas from ‘Waiting room of History’

The presentation will focus on the emerging narratives of global end of life care interventions and offer an alternative approach to framing the debate, drawn from a subaltern and post-colonial studies perspective.


Past presentations include:

Louise Boyle (University of Glasgow), “‘I’ve just got to keep myself together …’: The psycho-social geographies of living and coping with Social Anxiety Disorder”

Dr Matthew Smith (University of Strathclyde), “History in Action: Social Psychiatry in Contemporary, Political Perspective”

Dr Jane Draycott (University of Glasgow), “Prostheses in Ancient Greece and Rome”

Molly Ziegler (University of Glasgow), “Shakespeare and Madness: dramaturgies of mental illness in early modern England”

Staff from Archives and Special Collections (University of Glasgow), “Discovering Medical Humanities Collections”

Dr Ian Shaw (University of Glasgow), “The Psychopolitics of Surplus Populations”

Megan Donald (University of Glasgow), “From animal companionship to animal husbandry: exploring a more-than-human ethics for veterinary medical humanities”

Prof. Alexander Kosenina (Leibniz-University Hanover), “Bedlam and Beyond: Madhouse Tourism in the 18th Century”

Dr Anna Mcfarlane (University of Glasgow), “Inequality in Medical Science Fiction”

Arden Hegele (University of Columbia), “University of Pathography and Romanticism”

Dr Mia Spiro (University of Glasgow), “Between two Worlds: The Possessing Spirit of The Dybbuk in Interwar Jewish Theatre”

Dr Emma Laurie (University of Glasgow), “Health and Human Rights: Easier in theory than in practice”

Prof. Stephen Burn (University of Glasgow), “Contemporary American Fiction and Neuroscience”

Dr Jenny Eklof (Umeå universitet), “A New Panacea: The Emergence of Mindfulness Science”

Dr Donna McCormack (University of Leeds), “A Haunting Imaginary of Organ Transplantation”

Jac Saorsa (, “The Power of the Visual: The Artist in Medicine”

Dr Cheryl McGeachan (University of Glasgow), “A Tapestry of Tales: Investigating the Historical Geographies of Art Therapy and the ‘Art Extraordinary’ in Scotland (1950-1980)”

Dr Megan Coyer (University of Glasgow), “The Medical Blackwoodians: Literature and Medicine in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Press”

Dr Claire McKechnie (Glasgow Centre for Population Health), “Narrative, Community Health, and Medical Humanities”

Dr Hannah Tweed (University of Glasgow), “Poor Things: Diagnosis and Paratext’

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