C. L. Oakley Lecture: Thomas Dixon, ‘Healing Tears: Crying for Your Health in Modern British Culture’, Leeds

The C.L. Oakley Lecture in Medicine and the Arts:

Thomas Dixon (QMUL) – Tuesday 27th October, 5.30-7pm

Maurice Keyworth Lecture Theatre (G.02), Leeds University Business School

This lecture will trace the cultural history of medical ideas about tears and weeping in Britain since the early modern period. From the Shakespearean age to the present, medical theories about tears and emotions have shaped, and been shaped by, prevailing attitudes in the wider culture. So, whether we juxtapose the bloody tragedy Titus Andronicus with Timothy Bright’s 1586 Treatise on Melancholy, George III’s medical reports with sentimental novels like the Man of Feeling, audience responses to the 1945 movie Brief Encounter with mid-twentieth century Freudian ideas, or Arhur Janov’s primal therapy with the pop music of the 1970s and ‘80s, the cross-fertilisation of medical theory and the arts is repeatedly evident. The lecture will emphasise the power of both time and place to make the emotional weather, showing that not only nations but also individual regions, such as Yorkshire, can have their own distinctive climate, when it comes to tears and feelings.

Dr Thomas Dixon is a historian of science, medicine, philosophy, and religion. His most recent research has explored the history and meanings of emotional tears in British culture, leading to the publication last month of his book Weeping Britannia: Portrait of a Nation in Tears (Oxford University Press, 2015). He is the director of the Centre for the History of the Emotions at Queen Mary University of London, where he and his colleagues have recently been awarded a new grant by the Wellcome Trust for a major collaborative research project entitled ‘Living With Feeling: Emotional Health in History, Philosophy, and Experience’.

A reception will follow. For more information, please contact Stuart Murray (s.f.murray@leeds.ac.uk) or Greg Radick (g.m.radick@leeds.ac.uk).


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