ECR Representative: Dr Helen Charman

Hello, I’m Helen and I am excited to be joining the Glasgow Medical Humanities Network steering committee as an ECR representative. My primary research interest is the literary representation of the maternal body, particularly in relation to notions of purpose and product. I completed my PhD, ‘Generative Economies: transactional maternal sacrifice in social realist fiction 1853-1894’ in October 2019, which argues for the importance of motherhood to nineteenth-century fiction. It draws on the history of gynaecology and obstetrics, the class dynamics of breastfeeding and wet-nursing, and psychoanalytic readings of maternal absence in canonical texts, rooting its analysis in texts by George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, and George Moore.

My current research continues this focus on the maternal body, looking at the way pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing are represented in lyric poetry from 1970 to the present day, with a particular focus on the relationship between the intersubjectivity of poetic address and the literal intersubjectivity of pregnancy, and social reproduction theory. As a practising poet, I’m also interested in bridging the gap between academic and creative process, and problematising the perceived distinctions between them. In this way, I hope to contribute to the wealth of reproductive health research already ongoing in the Glasgow network, including Dr Anna McFarlane’s work on pregnancy in science fiction, Dr Jesse Olszynko-Gryn’s research into pregnancy testing in the twentieth century, and Dr Janet Greenlees’ ‘Failing Babies’ project.

In my role as ECR rep, I will be aiming to highlight and share useful resources for Medical Humanities researchers in the early stages of their careers, bearing in mind the specific difficulties of the current moment for those who rely upon archives and libraries, or those who rely upon casualised teaching whilst they look for a more secure job. Please do get in touch with me via my Glasgow email address,, with any suggestions, questions, resources or ideas for projects you might have. What might Medical Humanities research enable us to understand more clearly about the global COVID-19 crisis? What kind of initiatives would be most useful to the ECR Medical Humanities community both within Scotland and further afield?

The Medical Humanities Network is currently open to new members, new research projects, and new collaborations: to join, check your eligibility on the Join Us page, and complete one or more of the pro formas for individual members, for research projects, and for collections. These forms, and any updates, should then be sent to the Network mailbox and once they’re processed, you’ll be listed on our Directories of People, Projects, and Collections.