If you missed one of our events, you can catch up here. Recordings of our guest lectures from workshops and the keynote speakers from our conference are freely available to everyone. Just click on the "podcast" link under each event. An automated prompt will ask for your email address and then send the recording directly to your inbox where you will have immediate access.

Fashion and Fashionable Diseases

A joint CloTHINK and Fashionable Diseases seminar

Speakers: Members of the Fashionable Diseases Team in discussion with the CloTHINK Research Group

Wednesday 18 February 2015, 12.30 - 2.00pm;
Room 202 Board Room, 2/F, Design Building, City Campus East Northumbria University

This was a seminar designed to open up a dialogue exploring the relationship between fashion (in both the specific and broad senses) and disease. "Fashionable diseases" (a Leverhulme Trust project emanating from the scholars of literature and the history of medicine) in history as well as in the present could actually be caused by fashionable clothing (tight-lacing causing consumption, for example). Members of the CloTHINK fashion research group and the Fashionable Diseases research project came together to ask what fashion can say about disease, what diseases were fashionable and why, and what diseases might have done to/for fashion. Although the fashionable diseases project team is examining the long C18th primarily, discussion about the contemporary fashion scene was able to provide contexts for thinking about fashion and disease throughout history and the present..

Download this as a poster

Communities of Interest: Fashionable Diseases
Part of the Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research Workshop

Dr Jonathan Andrews and Dr James Kennaway, Newcastle University

Friday 16th January 2015, 10.30am - 5pm,
Armstrong Building, Newcastle University

As part of a one-day conference workshop for the Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research seminar series, historians of medicine from the Fashionable Diseases project team Dr Jonathan Andrews and Dr James Kennaway discussed their work on patients' perspectives, to see to what extent elite cultural ideas of so-called Fashionable Diseases were reflected in actual experience.


Fashionable Diseases in Georgian Britain: 18th-Century Legacies

Professor Clark Lawlor, Dr Anita O'Connell, Ashleigh Blackwood, Dr James Kennaway, Dr Leigh Wetherall Dickson, Professor Allan Ingram (Northumbria and Newcastle Universities)

Tuesday 18 November, The Mining Institute, Newcastle, 6-8.30pm

From young ladies having attacks of the "vapours" to patricians suffering from gout, the Georgian era offers many examples of diseases that appeared to have associations with social, intellectual or emotional superiority. At the same time, there were doctors who strongly attacked the whole notion and who blamed the luxury of elite lifestyles for the spread of these medical problems. The Fashionable Diseases Project Team hosted an evening of talks and discussion exploring the idea of "fashionable diseases" in the long eighteenth century. Members of the research team discussed their work on the project, drawing on Georgian literature, culture and the history of medicine. The event was part of a series of events organized by Northumbria University's eighteenth-century research group for a UK-wide Festival of Humanities on "Being Human."


Fashionable Diseases: Medicine, Literature and Culture, 1660-1832
An International Conference

Keynote speakers:

Professor Helen Deutsch,
Professor of English
University of California, Los Angeles
"Diseases of Writing"

Professor Sander L. Gilman,
Distinguished Professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of Psychiatry
Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
"The Fat Person on the Edgeware Road Omnibus: Fat, Health, and Fashion in the British long 18th Century"

Dr David Shuttleton,
Reader in English
University of Glasgow
"The Fashioning of Fashionable Diseases in the Eighteenth Century"

3rd-5th July 2014, Northumbria and Newcastle Universities

The Fashionable Diseases international conference considered the project's central questions of how and why certain illnesses such as melancholy, vapours, nerves, gout, consumption and biliousness were often perceived as fashionable in eighteenth century literature, medical texts and popular culture. At the conference, over forty speakers from around the world addressed these issues to an audience of over eighty delegates. A full programme is available on our conference page and several will appear in our Fashionable Diseases publications. To listen to the lectures given by our keynote speakers, follow the link to the podcasts.


Links to podcasts: Professor Helen Deutsch, Professor Sander L. Gilman, Dr David Shuttleton

Fashion and illness in Georgian Bath

Professor Annick Cossic, Professor of English, Université de Bretagne Occidentale, France

21st Nov 2013, 1-3pm Sutherland Building Boardroom 2 Northumbria University

Published at different times, Christopher Anstey's The New Bath Guide (1766), Tobias Smollett's The Expedition of Humphry Clinker (1771) and Jane Austen's Persuasion (1818) all testify to the emergence of new forms of social interaction, particularly on display in spas. The role of illness as an agent of sociability in Bath has been variously apprehended by Anstey, Smollett and Austen, who all three share a first-hand knowledge of a city, ironically nicknamed "the hospital of the nation" or, more positively, "the Queen of Watering-Places ". By offering a comparative study of these texts, this workshop interrogates the representation of fashionable diseases in three literary genres, themselves highly fashionable, the satirical letter, the epistolary novel and the novel of sensibility.


Link to Podcast

Disability and Fashionable Diseases in Literature and Culture

Violetta in La Traviata: a beautiful, pale woman in a white nightdress lying on a bed

Professor Michael Davidson, Professor of Literature, University of California, San Diego, Author of Concerto for the Left Hand; Disability and the Defamiliar Body

Professor Stuart Murray, Professor of Literature, University of Leeds, Author of Representing Autism: Culture, Narrative, Fascination

14 November 2013, Sutherland Building Boardroom 1, Northumbria University, 11am-1:30pm

How do the complicated and contested concepts and fields of disability and fashionable disease relate to each other, if at all? How are they represented within the spheres of literature and cultural representation generally? This workshop explored the subject of disability and fashion with the help of two experts in the field of contemporary literature and disability studies.


Link to Podcast

Fashionable Suicides of the Romantic Era

Dr Michelle Faubert, Associate Professor of Romantic Literature, University of Manitoba, Canada and Visiting Fellow in English, Northumbria University

23rd May 2013, Room 121 Lipman Building, Northumbria University, 2-5pm

A workshop on Fashionable Romantic-era suicide led by Dr Faubert, the author of Rhyming Reason: The Poetry of Romantic-Era Psychologists and editor/co-editor Romanticism and Pleasure, the Broadview Press edition of Mary Wollstonecraft's The Wrongs of Women and Mary, and Volume Four: Medical Writings of Depression and Melancholy, 1660-1800. As part of her current research project on Romantic suicide Dr Faubert discussed the odd phenomenon of fashionable suicides - both fictional and real - in the Romantic period.

The theme of suicide was fashionable, even attractive, to some in the Romantic era, as it suited the appetite for extreme emotions favoured by so many men and women in this 'culture of sensibility.' 'Now more than ever seems it rich to die,' John Keats intones in a seductive poetic expression of the Romantic-era will to death. Yet, more broadly conceived, Romantic suicide has an inherently contradictory quality, for it also played a major role in serious, influential debates about human rights. The goal of the workshop is to explore the inconsistencies in the Romantic-era view of suicide as, at once, fashionable and a basic expression of human rights, including women's rights.

Link to Podcast

'Making Up People' Reconsidered

Professor Ian Hacking, Professor Emeritus in Philosophy, University of Toronto, Canada

15 May 2013, MEA House Auditorium, Northumbria University, 10:30am-12pm

A guest lecture and discussion with Professor Ian Hacking, the author of Rewriting the Soul: Multiple Personality and the Sciences of Memory, Mad Travellers: Reflections on the Reality of Transient Mental Illnesses, The Social Construction of What?, Probability and Inductive Logic and Historical Ontology, among other works. Professor Hacking explored how new scientific classifications such as multiple personality disorder and autism may affect experiences of them and thus give rise to a new kind of person and way of being. After listening to the workshop you may wish to read the following article: Ian Hacking, 'Kinds of People: Moving Targets.' Proceedings of the British Academy 151 (2007): 285-318.


Link to Podcast

The Practical and Not-so Practical Art of Fashionable Melancholia: From Black Bile to Hamlet

Professor Clark Lawlor, Professor Allan Ingram, Dr Leigh Wetherall Dickson, Northumbria University

28 February 2013, 'The Practical Art of Medicine Exhibition,' Palace Green Library, Durham University, 5:30-7pm

Professor Clark Lawlor, Professor Allan Ingram and Dr Leigh Wetherall Dickson from the Fashionable Diseases project were invited to speak at Palace Green Library, University of Durham as part of an exhibition of key historical medical books from the library's rare and special collections. The team presented a history of melancholia from its early links with humoral imbalance to the representation of misery in the character of Shakespeare's Hamlet and beyond, highlighting the themes of diagnosis and treatment that were explored by the exhibition as well as its reputation as a fashionably sentimental ailment in seventeenth and eighteenth-century literature.


Hypochondria and the Refashioning of Medical Uncertainty

Dr. Catherine Belling, Assistant Professor of Medical Humanities and Bioethics , Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago

12 October 2012, Room 121 Lipman Building, Northumbria University, 3-5pm

A workshop on the history of hypochondria from the author of A Condition of Doubt: On the Meanings of Hypochondria. With particular reference to the eighteenth-century rise of pathological anatomy and the late twentieth-century rise of clinical ethics and patient autonomy, Dr Belling considered how the meaning of the term 'hypochondria' has shifted in relation to what medicine has considered certain. The paper was followed by a discussion on the changing shape of hypochondria through history.


Link to Podcast

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Page last modified: Saturday, 28th March 2015