Medical Humanities is vast and ever expanding field, comprising multi and interdisciplinary approaches around histories, experiences, narratives and representations of health, emotions, selfhood, wellbeing, body and illness, to mention but some.
The Department of Humanities has a longstanding commitment to research in the Medical Humanities and currently hosts a major Wellcome Trust Investigator Award project. The University of Roehampton as a whole features a wide range of research on these themes across departments. While led by the Department of Humanities, this group welcomes and maintains contact with interested researchers across the University.
A theatre of emotions: the affective landscape of nineteenth-century British surgery
"A Theatre of Emotions: The Affective Landscape of Nineteenth-Century British Surgery" will explore the place of emotion within the practice, politics and representation of nineteenth-century surgery. Before the advent of anaesthetics in the 1840s, surgical operations were conducted with little or no pain relief and were attended with great suffering and emotional distress. It has generally been assumed that in order to cope with such challenges, surgeons developed a culture of dispassion and emotional detachment. As this project will demonstrate, however, the reality was both more complex and more interesting than this. The operating theatre could play host to a wide range of emotional states from fear and anxiety to pity, sympathy and anger. Encompassing both civil and military worlds, this project will consider how emotion structured relationships between surgeons and their patients, how it shaped surgeons public performances, identities and reputations and how pain and suffering came to function as powerful tools for social, medical and political reform. It will also consider whether the emotional world of surgery was reshaped by the routine anaesthetization of the patient and whether the increasingly detached and technologized world of modern surgical practice can learn anything from the affective experiences of the past.