In this episode of High Theory, Laura Stokes talks about melancholy. One of the four humors in ancient humoral medicine, melancholy, or black bile, is a fluid substance and spiritual principle that was thought to move within the human body. A proper quantity of black bile allows one to be calm and contemplative, thoughtful and withdrawn. A superabundance produces sadness, indigestion, and a host of other evils. Research is a melancholy practice; scholars are prone to melancholic dispositions.
Throughout the episode Laura refers to Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, an early modern text that describes the sources, symptoms, and treatments for a surplus of melancholy, in a rather meandering way, with an entire separate disquisition on love melancholy. It was published in multiple versions over Burton’s lifetime – people usually cite the 1638 edition.
Laura Stokes is an associate professor of history at Stanford University where they study Early Modern Europe. Their first book Demons of Urban Reform: Early European Witch Trials and Criminal Justice, 1430-1530 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) examines the origins of witchcraft prosecution in fifteenth-century Europe against the backdrop of a general rise in the prosecution of crime and other measures of social control. They are currently working on a microhistory of a murder conspiracy within the Basel butchers’ guild at the turn of the sixteenth century, which is really about Early Modern economic cultures. And they run pretty amazing summer reading groups.
Image: © 2022 Saronik Bosu
Tagged : anatomy / black bile / early modern / four humours / humour / medical humanities / medicine / physiology / psychoanalysis / psychology / science
Hannah Zeavin talks about teletherapy, from Freud’s letters to suicide hotlines to therapy apps. If therapy is always mediated, teletherapy is any form of therapy in which that mediation is more clearly legible. This mediated practice is the topic of her new book The Distance Cure: A History of Teletherapy (MIT Press, 2021).
Hannah is a Lecturer in the departments of English and History at UC Berkeley, where she is affiliated with the Berkeley Center for Science, Technology, Medicine, and Society, and she is a visiting fellow at Columbia University Center for the Study of Social Difference. She is currently at work on a second book project, about technology in the American family, called Mother’s Little Helpers, also with MIT Press. You can learn more about Hannah’s research and teaching on her website: zeavin.org
Image: adapted from a 1912 advertisement of the Illinois Telephone and Telegraph Co.
Music used in promotional material: ‘A Better Normal’ by Ian Sutherland
Tagged : history / history of medicine / medical humanities / psychiatry / psychoanalysis / psychology / psychotheraphy / social history / therapy
Gabriel Winant talks with Kim about the decline of the industrial working class and the rise of the health care industry.
Gabriel is an assistant professor of History at the University of Chicago. His book, The Next Shift: The Fall of Industry and the Rise of Health Care in Rust Belt America, is recently out from Harvard University Press. You can read his recent article on the subject in The New York Times.
The Next Shift focuses on the working class in the American context and Pittsburgh in particular. In the full version of our conversation, Gabriel recommended Aaron Benanav’s book Automation and the Future of Work (Verso 2020), for an argument about the larger global economic structures of deindustrialization. He also talks a bit about James Boggs, as someone who was well positioned to notice the effects of deindustrialization. We found this article about Boggs worth reading.
The image for this episode is a photograph of the abandoned Detroit Public Schools Book Depository, taken by Thomas Hawk on 13 June 2010. The image is posted of Flickr under a creative commons attribution non-commercial license. Lauren Berlant describes gives this photograph as a bad image of neoliberalism, which allows our social theory to derive “its urgency and its reparative imaginary from spaces of catastrophe and risk where the exemplum represents structural failure” (“The Commons: Infrastructures for Troubling Times” Society and Space 34 no. 3 (2016) p.395). But I like it. Saronik modified the original image.
Music used in promotional material: ‘Shadow of a Coal Mine’ by Linda Draper
Tagged : capitalism / deindustrialization / economics / history of capitalism / history of labor / labor studies / medical humanities
Travis Chi Wing Lau talks about the notion that one can experiment on the fundamental conditions and nature of life in order to perfect them. He looks at this idea in diverse literary, scientific, and cultural contexts from the vitality debate and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to the perils of the CRISPR technology and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.
Travis Chi Wing Lau (he/him/his) is Assistant Professor of English at Kenyon College. His research and teaching focus on eighteenth- and nineteenth-century British literature and culture, health humanities, and disability studies. Alongside his scholarship, Lau frequently writes for venues of public scholarship like Synapsis: A Journal of Health Humanities, Public Books, Lapham’s Quarterly, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. His poetry has appeared in Barren Magazine, Wordgathering, Glass, South Carolina Review, Foglifter, and The New Engagement, as well as in two chapbooks, The Bone Setter (Damaged Goods Press, 2019) and Paring (Finishing Line Press, 2020).
Image: “Experimental Life” © 2021 Saronik Bosu
Music used in promotional material: “Future Life” by Ketsa
Tagged : bioethics / disability studies / health humanities / medical humanities / science and literature / science studies