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Sarah Spence

 Sarah SpencePhD candidate
I began work as a PhD researcher in English Literature in 2017. My current project is titled ‘Stigmatised Health Issues in Scottish Fiction 1979-present’ and is funded by the Wellcome Trust. I am currently Associate Editor of medical humanities website The Polyphony: I am a founding member of the University of Glasgow's Medical Humanities ECR group. We have organised and hosted a number of academic and social events, including a networking event and a regular reading group. We are currently planning a conference for Spring 2020. I studied English and Scottish Literature at the University of Aberdeen, graduating with a First Class Honours degree in 2015. I was particularly interested in embodiment, posthumanism and animal studies during my undergraduate studies, writing my dissertation on the body and the self in contemporary speculative fiction. I then studied modern and contemporary literature and culture at the University of Glasgow, graduating with MLitt Modernities (Distinction) in 2017. My dissertation examined representations of later life in Margaret Atwood’s short stories. I also wrote on Alzheimer’s disease in contemporary fiction, as well as on smallpox and cholera in Victorian literature. I have held editorial positions on a variety of publications, such as From Glasgow to Saturn (creative writing), eSharp (postgraduate academic journal) and theGIST (science magazine). Outside of my academic studies, I write poetry and short fiction, often on topics of science, history, and our relationship with animals and the 'natural'.

Research and Teaching Interests

My Wellcome Trust-funded project examines stigmatised health issues in contemporary Scottish literature (1979-present), in the context of neoliberalism and the so-called ‘Glasgow Effect’ (the phenomenon of poor health and high mortality in Scotland, even after accounting for socioeconomic factors). It focuses on mental ill-health/madness, alcohol use/alcoholism, and obesity/fatness, as these are commonly (and negatively) associated with Scottish public health, and indeed Scottishness itself, in the press and popular culture. The project explores how contemporary Scottish authors respond to representations of Scotland’s deficient public health and how they resist or reinforce stigmatisation. The research also considers newspaper articles published in Scotland, allowing for a richer understanding of the fiction’s relationship with its context. My project aims to enlarge both the Medical Humanities and Scottish literary and cultural studies by bringing them into dialogue. I teach on the English Literature module Poetry and Poetics.


ClassDisability studiesDrugsHealthIllness NarrativesLiteratureMental healthMetaphorPhD ThesisPsychiatryScotland