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Dr Louise T Benson James

PhD, MA, BA

  • BS8 1TB

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Research interests

Lecturer in 19th and 20th Century Literature at the University of Bristol.

My PhD (awarded March 2020) explored links between medicine and women’s fiction, examining the materiality of the body in women’s writing and medical texts published between 1850 and the early 2000s. This research was interested in disorder as presented as part of women’s – and men’s – everyday experience: the familiar, mundane ways in which the body goes out of control. Chapters discuss medical theories and symptoms put forward by diagnosticians of hysteria: involuntary movements, ghostly hallucinations, pathological blushing, stammering, mydriasis, and unruly organs. My thesis took the form of case studies on female authors over this period; Charlotte Brontë, Rhoda Broughton, Lucas Malet, Djuna Barnes, and a final chapter looking at a contemporary depiction of hysteria and the Gothic in the fiction of Helen Oyeyemi. It aimed to trouble accepted truths and unified stories of the female body in both fiction and medical discourse: the prevalence of narratives of women’s bodies as unstable and subject to uncontrollable emotional fluctuations. 

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