KSU English Colloquium, Sara Newman’s “Movement, Madness, and Medicine as Portrayed in The Insane Hospital Reports”

After spending the morning watching NHK about the probable meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant and responding to student essays, I drove to school today for the Kent State English department’s scheduled colloquium with Professor Sara Newman. She presented her findings in a presentation titled, “Movement, Madness, and Medicine as Portrayed in The Insane Hospital Reports.”

Not content with the written accounts on patients contained in nameless case studies, Professor Newman performed word analysis on a randomly selected (albeit small) set of case studies from the University of Pittsburgh’s Library of Health Sciences. Specifically, she studied case studies from 1870-1882. In these, she discovered a high incidence of words that appeared in a number of interesting collocations and extreme collocations. However, she was more interested in the possibility of these words and collocations being passed on to the next generation of doctors, and if so, how that transmission took place. Thanks to the Mutter Museum’s archive of student lecture notes and the practices of student training (i.e., repetitious copying and imitation) led to the continuation of certain medical practices without self-awareness on the part of the practitioners. This figures into her larger body of research on medical pedagogy.

As is the case with colloquia, I also enjoyed the Q&A at the end, particularly the questions geared to the relationship between interpretive and rhetorical analysis.