Diagnosis is as Diagnosis Does

This talk, drawn from my dissertation project, consists of two parts.

In the first half, I discuss how the psychiatric community in late-Victorian Britain produced its medical authority and refined its practices. I use excerpts from the Journal of Mental Science, records from the Medico-Psychological Association, and annual reports from the Holloway Sanatorium for the Insane in order to argue that authority/practice was idiosyncratically policed both locally and in professional associations, and that it was highly gendered.

From there I can move directly into a case study from Holloway Sanatorium that shows how Victorian patients resisted/allowed that authority: beholden Dr. T must wait and watch while one of his male patients–H. H. Butterworth–speaks his mind. Butterworth’s voice and agency, culled from his case file, family history, and telegrams, illustrates that the ability of doctors to do diagnostic work was actually quite contingent upon patient agreement or resistance, and that resistance such as that took many forms.

Overall, I’ll explore the gendered nature of psychiatry and the historical roots of “normalcy,” and prod at this question of power. In the end, it’ll be up to the audience to decide who was really in charge—the doctors or the patients—and what did they create?

Letters from Holloway Sanatorium

Also from my dissertation project, this talk addresses what it meant to be a “normative” or “normal” middle-class man in late 19th-century Britain. It was a complex and contradictory sort of normality built over the years by the writers of men’s magazines, the arbiters of club and university culture, imperialistic adventurers, and parliamentarians, among others, and over time it became deeply competitive, isolating, and toxic.

But, as they say on Reading Rainbows you don’t have to take my word for it.

The bulk of this talk–after a brief discussion of Thomas Holloway, the founder of the Sanatorium–demonstrates how this blueprint for normative masculinity frayed at the edges, sending middle-class men of all ages and professions into the Holloway Sanatorium for the Insane.  Through careful readings of the letters these patients wrote, I’ll illustrate that men really were thinking about what it meant to be a “good man,” and worrying themselves to the point of mental collapse when they felt like failures.  You might be surprised (or not) to find out that the voices of these 19th-century men sound a lot like ours.

British Tea Trade and Traditions

Often when we think of tea, we think of the British, conjuring up images of dainty cups, tea and scones, and pastel fascinators. But before tea became so synonymous with afternoon sipping, it fueled the British empire as an economic, political, and social tool, changing lives and industries around the globe, and inflicting violence upon those responsible for cultivating and selling the product.

If you’re interested in learning about that history, while tasting some of the original teas from China, India, and Sri Lanka, join me at LizzyKate Tea in Kirkland, WA, where I give this talk every few months, or so.

This talk costs is $25 and is subject to availability–there are only six seats per session.

Or, if you’re interested on transporting this talk to your own location of choice, please contact me via my form on the menu of this website.