MHRC Discussion Group 2017-2018

We’re delighted to announce that the new season of the Glasgow medical humanities discussion group is starting again, beginning on Wed 27th September with a paper from Sarah Phelan (Glasgow). The discussion group meetings will all take place between 1-2pm in Room 216, the Hetherington Building, at Glasgow University. Refreshments will be provided.



Sarah Phelan: “The ‘Dream Books’ and 1930s Glasgow Psychiatry: Untangling Psychoanalytic and ‘Common Sense’ Patient Narratives”

This presentation discusses the largely unknown Scottish psychiatrist, Thomas Ferguson Rodger (1907-1978), exploring the most intractable material from his archive: six manuscript ‘dream books’ from the 1930s. Rodger was Professor of Psychological Medicine at the University of Glasgow from 1948-1973, with his Department based at the Southern General Hospital. There, he advocated an ‘eclectic’ psychiatric approach, combining physical treatments such as tranquilisers and ECT with an adapted form of psychoanalytic-psychotherapy, centred upon the importance of relationships. This presentation expands upon the origins of Rodger’s psychotherapy, through investigating his 1930s experimental dream analysis of five male patients while Deputy Superintendent of Glasgow Royal Mental Hospital (Gartnavel).

Situating Scottish psychiatry’s uptake of psychoanalysis in terms of the ‘therapeutic pessimism’ of early twentieth century psychiatry (Hinshelwood 1998), I describe Rodger’s interwar psychoanalytic-psychotherapy as environmentally attuned and as acculturated to his Glaswegian clinical locale. I trace this to Rodger’s foremost psychiatric influences: David Henderson, Gartnavel’s authoritative superintendent, and Adolf Meyer, of the Phipps Clinic in Baltimore. Focusing upon transcribed dream analytic sessions, I explore how Rodger’s psychoanalysis was tempered by a pragmatic ‘common sense’ therapeutic attitude, and position his dream analysis as one of the avenues through which the psychosocial impressed itself upon 1930s Glasgow psychiatry.

Hinshelwood, R. D. ‘The Organizing of Psychoanalysis in Britain. Psychoanalysis and History 1.1 (1998): 87-102.


Manon Mathias, a Lecturer in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, is now taking over the running of the discussion group. If you would like further information, or to propose a paper, please contact get in touch with her. Sincere thanks to Cheryl McGeachan for running the group over the last few years!

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