Novel Perspectives on Female Experience in a Scientific Age

Research Network

Women, Science, Narrative

Novel Perspectives on Female Experience in a Scientific Age

This research network project is designed to create a platform for scholarly discussion about the interconnected themes of scientific discovery, literary production and female experience. Ranging widely from the pre-industrial era of the early nineteenth century to the ‘Modernist’ years of the 1920s and 30s, and covering material relating to Britain, France, South America, USA and Canada, it explores how women engaged with scientific themes in their writing, and asks what was distinctive about women’s experience of the relationship between science and writing in an age where both of these elements of cultural life were changing and expanding so rapidly.  This network creates an internal hub for researchers at the University of Aberdeen to work together on connected projects. It also fosters links with respected scholars in the field based at external institutions, who will be invited to a residential workshop in May 2015 to share expertise and exchange ideas.

About Our Research

Women writers have long had opinions about science and its implications for society. Ever since Gillian Beer’s landmark book Darwin’s Plots (1983) placed George Eliot at the main interchange of literary and scientific culture in the Victorian era, historians and literary scholars have recognised that female writers are just as likely to absorb and appropriate ideas from the world of science as their male counterparts. However, within the rapidly growing discipline of literature and science studies over the past two decades, largely set in motion by Beer’s book, there has been surprisingly little exploration of the distinctive nature of women’s relationship with scientific theory and practice from the early nineteenth century onwards, or of how this relationship mirrors the role of women in the literary marketplace.

As developing scientific disciplines asserted their intellectual prominence, became more professionalised, and moved out of the home or social environment into Universities or commercial laboratories and workshops, many became increasingly difficult for women to access. Meanwhile other emerging areas of study and practice, such as domestic science, food science and the health sciences, increasingly offered new professional roles for women, and often educational opportunities to go with them. As the nineteenth century waned, and the events of the First World War redrafted societal perceptions of gender, the relationship of women’s experience to literary-scientific culture became ever more complex—and not always in ways that we might now label ‘progressive’.

The literature of the age did much more than simply catalogue these changes. The rise of the female novelist from the mid-eighteenth century, and the widespread (though at times reluctant) acceptance of this public role for women, meant that female writers were not only well-placed to reflect the dramatic upheavals through which they worked, but also to shape their cultural context, to contribute to scientific debate, either as practitioners of science themselves or as advocates—and as critics—of the ideas and approaches of others, and to help define the terms and linguistic strategies which would become the central currency of scientific discourse.  As Karen Bloom Gevirtz points out in Women, the Novel and Natural Philosophy 1660-1727 (Palgrave, 2013), the rise of an empirical methodology in science was closely connected to the development of the novel as a prominent literary genre, a genre that was quickly appropriated by women writers and readers alike as a medium for the description and analysis of female experience.

Research Questions

In what ways did the literary culture of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries absorb, promote and shape scientific knowledge, method and language? What part did women play in these processes--as writers, as practitioners and as subjects of science? How did male authors adopt and develop scientific discourse in their portrayals of women?

How did women interact with scientific activity in the Victorian and Modernist years, and how are these interactions portrayed in the narrative writings of both male and female authors? How and why did many female authors engage with the practice and dissemination of science in this period?

Did the emergence of new areas of scientific activity and instruction for women from the mid-nineteenth century onwards, such as nursing, food science and domestic economy, provide a powerful means to legitimise and codify female activities within a culture increasingly hungry for empirical method and systematic rigour?  Or did it merely create a gender gap within the new discipline which contained women within their familiar practical  and nurturing roles? What did literary writers have to say about these changes?

What impact did the professionalization of science in the late nineteenth century have on the ways in which women interacted with science? As work outside the home became increasingly acceptable for middle-class women, especially before marriage, what parallels were formed between paid literary work and emerging roles for women in scientific professions, especially the health sciences.

What role do narrative strategies and imaginative expression play in the formation of a scientific discourse in the literature of the long nineteenth century? And how are elements of expression often classed as ‘feminine’ incorporated into, or at times excluded from, that discourse?

As readers, women were a major audience for the scientific discourse of the day, often through the medium of periodical magazines and journals. How did female readers respond to the dissemination of science in popular culture whether through fiction or non-fiction? How did this audience shape scientific discourse in ways that are still evident today?

Participants and Projects

Professor Cairns Craig, is Glucksman Professor of Irish and Scottish Studies at the University of Aberdeen, and has published extensively on nineteenth and twentieth century literature and culture. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In this project, Professor Craig will examine the work of Jane Webb (Loudon), author of The Mummy (1827) and wife of horticulturalist  John Claudius Loudon. After Loudon’s death, Webb continued to write and publish the influential Gardener's Magazine, and to author books such as Instructions in Gardening for Ladies (1840). This project reconsiders the role of women in the horticultural sciences of nineteenth century Britain, as well as Webb’s twin careers as both novelist and 'scientist'.

See also: www.abdn.ac.uk/elphinstone/staff/details.php?id=cairns.craig

Dr Larry Duffy

Women’s reading, ‘nervous maladies’ and the nightmare of equine deformity in Madame Bovary

At a critical moment in Flaubert’s novel Madame Bovary, one of the three characters bearing that name – Charles Bovary’s mother – pronounces on the unsuitability of her daughter-in-law Emma’s reading material: ‘novels, bad books, works that are against religion and in which mockery is made of priests by means of passages taken from Voltaire’. Although Emma’s mother-in-law identifies reading as cause of her despondent condition in primarily moralistic and religious terms, some of the content of her outburst is consistent with contemporary medical discourse on the effects on women’s health of reading, and of novels in particular. Earlier drafts of the episode in question, moreover, feature protracted discussion between Madame Bovary senior and the local pharmacist, Monsieur Homais, in which the chemist offers an account of the nefarious physiological (rather than moral) effects of reading novels on women. Homais’s pronouncements are underpinned by recent and contemporary medical discourse on the dangers of reading and on ‘nervous maladies’ to which women were held to be especially prone, and from which Emma, from her husband’s point of view, informed in turn by that of his former medical professor, is suffering. What Homais – as Flaubert’s key representative of popular medical and scientific discourse – is saying, in fact, is not terribly different from the moralistic discourse expressed by Charles’s mother: his remarks can be seen in the light of what Lisa Downing has referred to as ‘the secularization of discursive authority’ that took place in early-nineteenth-century France, transferring power over the human subject from religion to medicine, parallelling at the same time a transfer of the site of understanding of human subjectivity from the metaphysical to the bodily domain.

My paper, having outlined this context, will then consider in particular a phenomenon identified by Flaubert’s pharmacist – again, in an earlier draft – as being among the potential consequences of reading novels: the nightmare, which, in early-nineteenth-century medical discourse, falls under the category of ‘nervous maladies’. Although explicit mentions of the nightmare are expunged from the final version of Madame Bovary, it retains a presence throughout the novel through the narrative’s use of allusive language pertaining to one aspect of medical discourse on the phenomenon: the equine imagery derived from traditional accounts of the nightmare, where the sufferer typically sees a horse by the bedside, and feels pressure applied by a deformed creature to the chest. Flaubert’s narrative combines the equine and the deformed in the characters of Hippolyte the stable boy and the Blind Beggar, both of whom in some way require correction. Their need to be tamed, to be brought under control, is symbolic in turn of Emma’s presumed need to be brought under control morally, and of vain attempts to ‘correct’ her.

My discussion, then, will identify medical discourse underpinning Flaubert’s narrative on the susceptibility of women to nervous maladies, and – through that narrative’s exploitation of equine imagery linked with such maladies – on the need for unruly women to be brought under control.

Larry Duffy is Lecturer in French at the University of Kent. His research explores the interplay between literary, scientific, and medical discourses in nineteenth-century France. He has published a number of articles on medical themes in the works of Gustave Flaubert and Émile Zola, and has completed a monograph on these writers to be published by Palgrave in 2014.

See also: www.kent.ac.uk/secl/french/staff/duffy.html

Professor Christine E. Hallett

The nurse-scientist: self-denigration in the writing of Agnes Warner

Agnes Warner, a citizen of Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, graduated in natural sciences from McGill University, Montreal, in 1894.  During her studies, she amassed, identified and catalogued more than 250 plant specimens which still form part of the plant collections at the New Brunswick Museum Herbarium. When invited to give the valedictory lecture to her year group, Warner chose to emphasise the growing importance of women’s education, arguing that ‘the day was past when women were laughed at for their ignorance and yet denied the right of a good education’.[1]

At the turn of the century, Warner entered the prestigious New York Presbyterian Hospital School of Nursing in the USA, graduating in 1902.  In common with many newly-qualified nurses of her time, she entered private practice, caring for wealthy Long Islander, Mrs. Roswell Eldridge. Her patient was a keen traveller, and Warner, as her main carer and a significant member of the Eldridge household, made frequent and lengthy excursions to Europe. In August 1914, on the outbreak of the First World War, she was in the French spa town of Divonne-les-Bains. Turning her skills to war-nursing, she served with the French Service de Santé des Armées for the duration of the war. 

By September 1915, Warner had joined Mary Borden’s field hospital in Rousbrugge: L’Hôpital Mobile Chirurgical No. 1, a unit which was to hold peculiar significance for female literary modernists. Both Borden herself and one of her senior nurses, Ellen La Motte went on to publish books about their experiences – books that have come to be recognised as classics of the modernist genre.[2] Warner was no self-publicist; yet, like any other nurse, she wrote frequent letters home to her family. In the Spring of 1917, these were published anonymously and without her knowledge, as My Beloved Poilus, a book that caused a sensation in her home province of New Brunswick.[3] Her reaction to her unexpected celebrity was to comment on the shock she had felt when she had realised that her ‘appalling English’ had been published, adding that she considered her letters ‘rather a disgrace to a graduate of McGill’.

Warner went on to become the Head Nurse of L’Hôpital Mobile Chirurgical No. 1, holding together a disparate unit of professional nurses, orderlies and volunteers until 1918, when the unit was broken up during the rapid German advance. Later that Spring, she joined the allied advance across the Hindenburg Line as part of Ambulance 16/21, serving the 36ieme Corps of the French army.

The paper contends that the life and work of Agnes Warner stands as an interesting case study of the early-twentieth-century professional nurse: a highly educated, independently-minded woman, who entered a clinical profession, performed work that was at once both domestic and scientific, held a highly responsible position of authority, and yet had no desire for recognition or notoriety. Warner, a scientist and nurse, moved within the female literary circles of her time, providing a safe – if at times dramatic and unpredictable – clinical environment within which the creativity of her colleagues could be given free play.

Christine E. Hallett is Director of the UK Centre for the History of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Manchester, and Chair of the UK Association for the History of Nursing.  She was also the Founding Chair of the European Association for the History of Nursing and holds Fellowships of both the Royal Society of Medicine and the Royal Society for the Arts. She has published extensively on nurses’ accounts of the First World War, both fictional and non-fictional.


[1] Announcement, Saint John Globe, 2 May, 1894

[2] Mary Borden, The Forbidden Zone (London, William Heinemann, 1929) ; Ellen La Motte, The Backwash of War (New York, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1916)

[3] Anonymous, My Beloved Poilus (St. John, NB, Barnes and Co, 1917)

See also: www.nursing.manchester.ac.uk/staff/ChristineHallett

Dr Hazel Hutchison

Ellen La Motte is not a familiar name to many readers. However, her startling and innovative text The Backwash of War, written while she was serving in a French military hospital on the Western Front, and published in 1916, was one of the very first texts to strike the distinctive note of futility and absurdity which would permeate so many later responses to the war. Before 1914, La Motte had worked as a public health nurse in Baltimore and St Louis, and had authored a controversial book on the treatment of TB. Like many Americans of the educated classes, La Motte felt drawn to support the French cause in the war, and through her friend Gertrude Stein found a position at an American-sponsored hospital behind French lines. But her months at the front were distressing and disillusioning, and by the summer of 1916, La Motte had left France, and set out with her friend Emily Chadbourne for China.

This journey set the course for the rest of La Motte’s working life. Her experiences in China, on this and other visits, provided the material for her collections of essays and short stories, Civilisation (1919) Peking Dust (1925) and Snuffs and Butters (1925), and sparked her interest in the injustices of the international opium trade. Many of her stories dealt with the imperialist exploitation of Asiatic communities, and challenged contemporary stereotypes of race. Throughout the 1920s, she campaigned tirelessly for the regulation of the drugs trade, and counselled the League of Nations Advisory Committee on Traffic in Opium and Other Dangerous Drugs. She wrote three books on opium: The Opium Monopoly (1920), The Ethics of Opium (1925) and Opium in Geneva (1929). In 1930, she was awarded the Lin Tse Hsu medal by the Chinese government.

This project explores how La Motte’s dual roles as writer and public health specialist intersected in her writings, both fictional and non-fictional. Her medical expertise informs her late writings as surely as it does her war memoir. However, La Motte is an interesting example of how literary texts do not only feed off scientific and medical developments, but also shape their course. Her post-war fictional works were an integral part of her strategic engagement with the opium question. Her public role as a writer gave her a platform from which to speak on this issue, and her literary and linguistic strategies were neatly adapted to her polemic writing—much of which appeared in the same journals and magazines as her fiction. La Motte’s work shows how the roles of writer and medic fused together in her desire to tackle a political and moral problem. Her life also offers a powerful example of a woman professional fearlessly taking on a male political establishment with no weapons but words.  

Dr Hazel Hutchison is a Senior Lecturer and Director of the Centre for the Novel at the University of Aberdeen. She has published on nineteenth-century technologies of writing, Victorian religious anxiety, and on writers in the medical services in the First World War.

See also: www.abdn.ac.uk/sll/research/profiles/h.hutchison

Dr Melanie Keene is Graduate Tutor at Homerton College, University of Cambridge, where she is also Director of Studies for History and Philosophy of Science. She has published a number of articles and book chapters on science for children in the nineteenth century, as well as a recent book, Science in Wonderland. Her research for this network project concerns the presentation of science in late nineteenth century children’s periodicals, especially those marketed at girls, to explore cultural expectations about girls’ engagement with science.

See also: www.homerton.cam.ac.uk/node/129

Professor Jeannette King is Professor Emerita at the University of Aberdeen. She has published widely on women’s writing of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, often focusing on questions of health, or the role of science in shaping cultural expectations of gender. In this project she considers the origins of ‘domestic science’, which women readers were instructed was an essential element for a well-regulated home, discouraged as they were from studying 'real' science. However, manuals like Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management (1861) in Britain, and Catherine Beecher’s A Treatise on Domestic Economy (1842) in America, contained guidance not just on the domestic sciences, but also on medical care for the sick, and other practical solutions for daily life, even in the extreme conditions of the Frontier. This study explores these issues and their modern-day portrayal in Jane Smiley’s novel The All-true Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton (1998).

See also: www.abdn.ac.uk/sll/people/profiles/j.m.king

Dr Aine Larkin is Lecturer in French at the University of Aberdeen. She has published extensively on the work of Marcel Proust, especially in relation to visual culture and photography. She also has research interests in the interactions between literature and dance. Proust was the son and brother of successful, pioneering doctors, and he was deeply familiar with many aspects of medical research and practice. This study explores Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu (1913-1927) in relation to contemporary psychological and medical texts, showing how his novel represents healthy girls and women in contrast to the weakling protagonist. In their depiction, certainties of gender and sexuality are called repeatedly into question.

See also: www.abdn.ac.uk/sll/disciplines/french/profiles/a.larkin

Dr Alexandra Lewis (co-applicant) is a Lecturer in English at the University of Aberdeen. She has published a number of articles on subjects relating to Victorian literature and culture, including, Literature and science 1800 to the present; the history of medicine and psychology, the Brontës and George Eliot, trauma narratives, memory studies, and twentieth and twenty-first-century responses to Victorian culture. For this project, she proposes to explore the relationship between the works of Anne Brontë and nineteenth-century psychology, looking at the link between body and mind in the context of isolation, violence and identity formation with reference to Agnes Grey (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848).

See also: www.abdn.ac.uk/sll/people/profiles/alexandra.lewis

Dr Ben Marsden is a Senior Lecturer and Director of the Centre for the History and Philosophy of Science, Technology and Medicine at the University of Aberdeen. His research interests span science and technology in eighteenth and nineteenth-century culture, especially the cultural history of engineering and technology in Britain; the humanitarian movement and veterinary professionalization; the historical relationship between science and music; and engineers as authors and readers. For this project, he proposes to examine Wilkie Collins’ portrayal of the figure of the female scientist as a comic figure in his little-read novel Heart and Science.   

See also: www.abdn.ac.uk/sdhp/history/profiles/b.marsden

Dr Manon Mathias

Over the course of the nineteenth century, the discovery of deep time and the development of evolutionary theory disrupted the basic assumption of humanity’s pre-eminence and led to a new focus on the interconnections between the human species and the environment. At the same time, there was a particular fascination in France with the spiritual concept of reincarnation, and the idea that humans progress to different forms of existence after death. Whereas research has been undertaken on reincarnation as part of the French fascination with the Orient, and also the role of reincarnation in political theories of social reform, the connections between reincarnation and scientific theory have not yet been considered. This project will consider this intersection of science and spirituality through an examination of popular science and literary narrative, not only on a thematic level but also in terms of language, form and structure.

In considering the relations between reincarnation and scientific theories, France is of particular interest given the relatively late acceptance of Darwinian evolution and the alternative system of ‘transformisme’. Whereas evolution includes the idea of extinction and does not offer explanations behind species change, ‘transformisme’ incorporates intention and conscious endeavour and foregrounds transformation and process, concepts which are central to theories of reincarnation. 

The project will focus on influential but largely forgotten texts by Jean Reynaud and Louis Figuier which take up the evolutionist principle of progressive development to support progress in a social and moral sense, bringing together geology, palaeontology, philosophy and religion. In the context of the increasing focus on positivism and realism in the second half of the century, it would seem that there was little interest in such eclectic approaches to knowledge. However, this project will show that the syncretism of these texts is emblematic of a significant overlap between spirituality and science in this period of French culture. My hypothesis is that this overlap is a particular focus for literary authors who develop innovative, hybrid forms as a means of exploring apparently conflicting narratives.

The novelist George Sand, for example, took a particular interest in the idea of reincarnation and in works which combine autobiography, epic, essay, and fable, she imbues the theory of ‘transformisme’ with a spiritualist and directionalist position in which humanity is constantly progressing. Victor Hugo, a further writer deeply preoccupied with notions of regeneration and palingenesis, highlights the crucial connection between spirit and matter, but views human progress in terms of conquest, particularly of nature. Conversely, for Gustave Flaubert, the processes of constant transformation within nature feed into an approach which foregrounds the essential formlessness of all things, in generically hybrid texts such as Bouvard et Pécuchet and La Tentation de Saint Antoine.

The overall aim of this project is twofold: firstly, to highlight the role of the novelist in defying disciplinary boundaries, and secondly, to reveal the continued spirituality of French thought in an age that is regarded as exclusively secular, materialist, and positivist.

See also: www.abdn.ac.uk/sll/disciplines/french/profiles/m.mathias

Professor Ralph O’Connor is Professor in the Literature and Culture of Britain, Ireland & Iceland at the University of Aberdeen. His research interests include Science and literature, the literary study of science-writing, science fiction, the history of popular science and science communication, and religion and the physical sciences. For this project his research will focus on female science writers of the Victorian period, who were experimenting in different ways with narrative forms, especially Arabella Buckley,  who used a range of narrative strategies which drew on and negotiated links with fairy-tale, epic and romance, in her books on science for general readers of the 1870s and 1880s.

See also: www.abdn.ac.uk/staffpages/r.oconnor/  

Professor Mary Orr

Adventures in Australia (1851) by Mrs R Lee: Ventures in the Future Importance of Plant Geography

Despite being one of the first novels for juvenile audiences about Australia, Mrs R Lee’s work has largely been overlooked by Australian Studies, especially after the cultural cringe, and by juvenile and travel studies. How could an Englishwoman who had never set foot in Australia write about its early exploration, and rich flora and fauna, except from derivative, British colonial perspectives?  Yet Sarah, formerly Mrs T Edward Bowdich (1791-1856), had many first-hand encounters with Australian specimens and their very varied geographies, as this paper will unpack for the first time.  Not only did she study the collections from Baudin’s expeditions in Paris at the Jardin des Plantes, and botanical collections at Kew, she was also trained in the 1820s by Alexander von Humboldt in how to understand their importance as ‘plant geography’, that is how the interconnectedness of physical and natural environments explains the diversity of species. The first part of the paper will therefore rediscover her first-hand scientific expertise, but also how she put it to use. Because the book is additionally one of the first critiques of the Australian Gold Rush and its exploitation of habitats, the second part of the paper examines its proto-ecological and pro-Aboriginal agendas. Lee’s descriptions of Australiana in these double excursions then allow us to reconsider the roles of women in the narratives of mid-nineteenth-century natural science as more than ‘popularisers’, and writers for children. How is their place in early reading for children of both sexes fundamental to inspiring the scientific imagination and its commitments? Is it precisely in early learning that current concerns can be addressed regarding the disconnect between institutional and ‘citizen’ science, and shortages of women in STEM?

Mary Orr is Professor of French at the University of Southampton.

See also: www.southampton.ac.uk/ml/about/staff/mmorr.page#research

Dr Mhairi Pooler

Between 1896 and 1908 the novelist Dorothy Richardson worked as a receptionist and assistant in a Harley Street dental surgery. This experience impacted her writing in two principal ways. Firstly, it provided her with enough information and expertise to write articles for dental magazines between 1912 and the 1922; and secondly, her experience provides the setting for her protagonist Miriam Henderson’s work-life for several volumes of her autobiographical novel-cycle Pilgrimage – providing a workaday but scientific backdrop to the story of a woman’s personal and artistic development at the turn of the century.

While Miriam and Richardson’s work in the dental surgery is essentially restricted to the ‘female’ activities of administration and assisting, Richardson’s articles address wide ranging and important issues for the profession, such as the struggle to define dentistry as a profession, the role of women in dentistry and the effects of the First World War on health and on England’s dentists. These different spheres of work and influence provide a lens through which to examine Richardson’s personal situation as well as broader social issues of women’s role in science and literature at the turn of the century and during the First World War.

This project explores the theme of women’s work in Richardson’s writing. By examining Richardson’s little-known contributions to dental magazines, in particular her column in the Dental Record – a professional journal for dentists – alongside her representation of dentistry in Pilgrimage, the project considers the connections between emerging roles for women in the health sciences, paid literary work and how these shaped creative literary activities.

Mhairi Pooler teaches part-time at the University of Aberdeen where she is also an honorary research fellow of the Centre for the Novel. She has published several journal articles and book chapters about modernist life writing and her monograph on early twentieth-century literary autobiography is forthcoming from Liverpool University Press.

See also: http://www.abdn.ac.uk/sll/people/profiles/mpooler

Professor Patience A. Schell

‘“I am a widow, unprotected, and in a foreign land…!”: Maria Graham and Narrating the Self’

Maria Graham (1785-1842) is probably best known as the author of Little Arthur’s History of England, but she was also an editor, adventurous travel writer and consummate observer, and collector, of flora and fauna.  In 1821, when she sailed for South America aboard the HMS Doris, she was already a published author, and her experiences during a tumultuous period in South American history, when Napoleon’s expansionism had inadvertently sparked wars for independence in Spanish America and the flight of the Portuguese monarchy to Brazil, provided her with ample material for further publications.  Her Journal of a Residence in Chile 1822, and a voyage from Chile to Brazil in 1823 and Journal of a voyage to Brazil and residence there, 1821-23, both published in 1824, chronicle her observations, experiences, networks and reflections, as well as providing observations of political events, local culture and natural history.  Nonetheless, prevailing expectations of women at the time meant that Graham simultaneously challenged and worked within gender roles in order to claim the authority, based on her experiences, to contribute to the ‘polite society’ of early nineteenth-century intellectual debate. This paper examines these her South American travel narratives, in juxtaposition to her correspondence, her controversial report to the Geological Society of London on the 1822 Chilean earthquake and her manuscript journal, to see how Graham negotiated the various media available to her, in order to create a space for herself in Britain’s natural history community and public sphere more widely.

Patience A. Schell is Professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of Aberdeen. She has published numerous books and articles on the history Mexico and Chile, with a particular focus on the history of science and museums.

See also: www.abdn.ac.uk/sll/disciplines/spanish/profiles/p.schell   

Dr Isabel Seidel has recently completed a PhD on popular Victorian fiction at the University of Aberdeen. In this project, she intends to investigate the representation of food science, including vegetarianism, in the works of Mrs Humphry (Mary) Ward (1851-1920). Ward took a great interest in questions of food provision and the nutritional value of food and features vegetarianism in her novel The History of David Grieve (1892). This study will explore Ward’s involvement in questions relating to food and food science, and her role in educating others on this topic. It will also assess the reception of this theme in Ward’s fiction and nonfiction, thus using Ward as a measure of public opinion about women’s roles in this branch of science.

Dr Olive M. Ritch is an honorary research fellow at the University of Aberdeen, where she has taught literature and creative writing. Her research interests are poetry and memory, especially the work of H.D, as well as literature and medicine. For this project, she proposes to explore H.D.’s relationship with Sigmund Freud in regard to the way she engages with the psychoanalytic process as patient and pupil in Tribute to Freud. In the role of patient, she wanted Freud to help her ‘dig down and dig out, root out my personal weeds, strengthen my purpose, reaffirm my beliefs, canalize my energies’, and as pupil she wanted to learn his scientific technique. H.D.’s account of her analysis with Freud shows not only their unique relationship from the perspective of her being on (and off) the couch, but also her appropriation of Freud’s psychoanalytic techniques. The 1956 publication of her memoir was reviewed by Ernest Jones, Freud’s biographer, in The International Journal of Psycho-Analysis and he asserted that: ‘The book, with its appropriate title, is surely the most delightful and precious appreciation of Freud’s personality that is ever likely to be written’. Whilst the aforementioned view is not disputed, this study proposes to examine more closely what it is that H.D. is doing in Tribute to Freud as a means of considering the significance of the relationship for both analyst and patient/pupil, as well as the relevance of H.D.’s memoir in the twenty-first century.

See also: www.abdn.ac.uk/staffnet/profiles/oritch/

 

Professor Clare Pettitt