Modernism, Medicine and the Embodied Mind: Investigating Disorders of the Self

The Modernism, Medicine and the Embodied Mind project has now ended.

These pages are no longer actively maintained, but their contents remain publicly accessible, in accordance with our funding arrangements.

About this project

‘Modernism, Medicine and the Embodied Mind’ is an interdisciplinary network that uses the radical insights of aesthetic modernism to develop dialogue with medical practice in psychiatry, psychoanalytic psychotherapy, neurology, and the mental healthcare offered at the end of life. The project is dynamically interdisciplinary, fostering collaboration between researchers and clinicians working in Higher Education, the NHS, and international healthcare. It brings literary and arts scholars, philosophers, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, neuropsychologists, neurologists, research scientists, and doctors in palliative care and general practice into dialogue with theatre practitioners, dancers and artists from across the UK, Europe and the USA, asking them to explore together the resources modernism offers for creatively understanding experiences of body and mind poorly served by realist models of the self.

The project explores the historical and discursive links between literary modernism, medical discoveries, and clinical practice, in dialogue with the insights of visual artists and art historians, dancers and dance scholars, and contemporary scientists and clinicians. Underpinning the project is the significance of phenomenology and the first-person experience of medicine, as explored in literature, theatre, dance, and the philosophy of medicine, and as applied to medical education and clinical care through innovative performance-based workshops and pedagogical interventions.

The project combines aesthetic criticism – which can attend to aesthetic form and engage in nuanced ways with questions of language, representation, subjectivity, and affect – with the archival emphases of cultural history and conceptual rigour of philosophy and critical theory, to explore modernism’s specific ability to speak to seemingly unruly mental and embodied states, and the conceptual ‘black hole’ of extreme old age. It uses performance-as-research strategies to consider how theatre and dance might help scholars and clinicians understand these states via experiential means, and explores the role of the visual arts in communicating experiences that resist conceptual definition.


The project included workshops at the University of Exeter (April 2015), the New York Psychoanalytic Institute and Society (September 2015), the University of Warwick (March 2016), and the University of Bristol (July 2016).

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