Dr. Alexis Easley to speak Nov. 16 in feminist research series

Dr. Alexis Easley to speak Nov. 16 in feminist research series

Dr. Alexis Easley, English Department, will give a presentation on "Representations of the Victorian Woman Author in the British Medical Journal" from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16, in the Luann Dummer Center for Women, Room 103, O'Shaughnessy Educational Center.

"The British Medical Journal was a key venue," Easley said, "for defining medicine as a profession during the Victorian period. The BMJ participated in (and in some cases instigated) medical controversies on a variety of topics, including baby farming, the Contagious Diseases Acts, vaccination, vivisection, and medical education for women.

"The BMJ also was involved in a number of controversies over the medical histories of Victorian women authors. In this presentation, I will briefly highlight two of these controversies: the debate over Harriet Martineau's alleged cure by mesmerism in 1844 and the dispute over the causes of infertility and discord in the marriage of Thomas and Jane Carlyle.

"The controversies over Martineau and Carlyle illustrate the ways that the medical gaze was defined in opposition to what was perceived as the over-heated imagination or hysteria of women's autobiographical texts. Women writers could not know their own bodies, the BMJ reasoned, and thus they must rely on medical specialists to interpret their texts in order for the correct diagnosis to be produced.

"The 'correct' objective interpretation of the authorial body would limit the circulation of subjective knowledge, which would, in turn, authorize the medical gaze as a more reliable source of scientific information. The case study, like a speculum, allowed medical journalists to view the interior of the authorial body, even if only as it was represented in literary texts, defining it as a space that only they could rightly interpret."

Please bring your lunch; dessert and beverages will be provided.

The Women's Studies Program and the Luann Dummer Center for Women will co-sponsor this talk as part of a series of feminist research presentations by faculty members. Faculty members are invited to present papers, informally discuss their research or offer journal articles for analysis.

Please contact Dr. Sherry Jordon, director of women’s studies, (651) 962-5328, if you are interested.