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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

Reconceiving the Relationship between Medicine, Philosophy and Literature

10th December 2018, 16:30 to 17:30, The Old Shop, Josephine Butler College, Peter Garrett, Michael Mack and Sambudha Sen

A research conversation on how to reconceive the relationship between literature and medicine.

This research conversation is entitled ‘Reconceiving the Relationship between Medicine, Philosophy and Literature. Peter Garratt (Durham, English) and Sambudha Sen (IAS Durham and Shiv Nadar University, India) and Michael Mack (Durham, English) will present short 10-minute papers on how to reconceive the relationship between literature and medicine. There will be a focus on George Eliot and the Victorian novel in both Peter Garratt’s and Sambudha Sen’s presentation: the focal topic of discussion will be the discovery of the heart valve and how a literary text such as George Eliot’s Middlemarch does not only represent this discovery—as Rothstein’ Vital Signs discusses it—but how it also opens up the social significance of such discovery for a new conception of what it means to have a call or vocation in life. Michael Mack will provide the historical background for the social need for such a modern, medical call or vocation and discuss how literature and philosophy have played a destructive role fragmenting and deflating grand notions of humanity’s calling and the potential risk of an associated anthropocentricism and anthropomorphism. Does Victorian literature’s concern with medicine’s modern promise of a calling have rather troubling connotations that inflate our sense of our standing the universe, which Spinoza and some romantic and modernist writers have done their best to render fragmentary, incomplete and deflated (if not disappointed)? Or is this a new version of a more humble calling that is grounded not in a metaphysical or quasi-theological notion of a vocation, but in the pragmatic and empirical need to be of help in an increasingly secularized community, such as George Eliot’s?

Contact michael.mack@durham.ac.uk for more information about this event.


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Next Event

  • 29th January 2021
  • Title TBC
  • Online (Zoom)
  • Dr Hannah-Rose Murray (University of Edinburgh)