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Durham University

Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease

Dr James Kennaway, MA (King's College London), PhD (UCLA)

Durham University, Queen's Campus
Wolfson Research Institute
University Boulevard
United Kingdom
TS17 6BH

Tel. +44 (0)191-33-40387

Research Interests

Current Research Project

'Pathological Sounds: The History of Music as a threat to the Nerves'

Curriculum vitae

Dr James Kennaway studied at LSE and the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine before completing a Master's at King's College, London and a PhD at UCLA in 2004. Since then he has worked at the University of Vienna, Stanford University and the Viadrina University in Frankfurt-an-der-Oder, Germany. In January 2009 he began a Wellcome Research Fellowship at the University of Durham.

Recent Publications

"Musical Hypnosis: Sound and Selfhood from Mesmer to Brainwashing," Social History of Medicine

"From Sensibility to Pathology: The Origins of the Idea of Nervous Music around 1800" in Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences (March 2010)

"Degenerate Religion and Masculinity in Parsifal Reception" in Current Musicology (Autumn 2009)

"Singing the Body Electric: Nervous Music in fin de siècle Literature" in Stiles (ed.), Neurology and Literature in the Fin de Siècle (Palgrave, October 2007)

"The Fox-Hunting Philosopher and Wagner's Love Death: Roger Scruton's Death-Devoted Heart" - Review article in Echo.

"Siegfried or Tristan? - Wagner and Masculinity" was in the Covent Garden programme for Siegfried in October 2005.

"The Wagner Case: Nietzsche's Use of Psychiatry in his Wagner Books" in the New German Review (Autumn 2005).

"Oliver Sacks' Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain" - Review article in Echo. 


Bad Vibrations: The History of the Idea of Music as a Cause of Disease (Ashgate, 2012)

Radio Show

Bad Vibrations radio show:


"The Piano Plague: The Nineteenth-Century Medical Critique of Female Musical Education," Gesnerus (July 2011)

"Stimulating Music: The Pleasures and Dangers of 'Electric Music' 1750-1900", Configurations (forthcoming).