By Anna Mercer
The Limits of Life, Death and Consciousness in the Long Nineteenth Century
University College Dublin, 10-11 January 2020
Keynote Speaker: Professor Angela Wright
This interdisciplinary conference seeks to explore the ways in which the fundamental understanding of embodied human life and consciousness was challenged by developments in science and medicine in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Spurred on by public experiments and mass casualties resulting from war, famine, disease, poverty and oppression, natural philosophers, poets and novelists, spiritualists and enthusiasts interrogated the limits of death and life. Social and intellectual cross-currents between imaginative and scientific discourses produced a flourishing culture of enquiry in which old certainties and taboos no longer defined the parameters of human existence. However, the body, rather than being tamed and comprehended by advancements in science, seemed more alien than human, a thing apart from consciousness yet intimately tied to mental processes. From the grotesque and mutilated female bodies of William Hunter’s The Anatomy of the Human Gravid Uterus (1774) to the distorted figures of Henry Fuseli’s nightmarish paintings and on to Stevenson’s metamorphic identities in The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), eighteenth- and nineteenth-century intellectual life reimagined the boundaries of sex, disease and …read more