ETC Online Research Seminar on Madness in Premodern and Early Cultures

The Early Text Cultures research group based at the University of Oxford is delighted to announce our research seminar in Trinity Term (April – June 2023), will be on ‘Madness in Premodern and Early Cultures’. Sessions one and two will take place online on Wednesdays from 14:00-15:00 (UK Time). The third session comprises two talks and will begin at the earlier time of 11:00, concluding at 13:00. 

Humans experiencing mental distress have been attested throughout all regions and time periods. However, when discussing these experiences, our lexicon is often bound to modern psychological and medical jargon such as ‘illness’, ‘disorder’ and ‘mental health’. Yet Madness was – and can be – conceived of in a plethora of different ways. Disability Studies, Anti-psychiatry and the burgeoning discipline of Mad Studies offer new useful paradigms with which to conceptualise Madness in the modern age, but how should we discuss Mad people in history?

This series seeks to explore presentations of Madness from early and pre-modern time periods. From the widespread practice of trephination in numerous cultures of North Africa and South America, to medieval models for understanding mental distress in Foucault’s seminal Folie et déraison: Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique (1961), Madness is a key theme within pre-modern studies. This series hopes to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration, bringing about new lenses with which to engage with texts.

The sessions will be held online, on Wednesday 2-3 pm (UK Time). Please note that the third session comprises two talks and will begin at 11 am, ending at 1 pm. The first session will be on Wednesday 24 May. Dr Alex Johnston (Oxford) will speak about ‘Divine Possession and Language in Homer and Sophocles’.

Please register here to receive Zoom links on the day of each session.


Week 5, 24 May

Alex Johnston (Oxford): Divine Possession and Language in Homer and Sophocles

Week 6, 31 May

Avital Rom (Cambridge): Messy Minds: The Epistemology of Madness in Ancient China

Week 9, 21 June (please note this session will begin at the earlier time of 11:00 and run until 13:00)

Toby Brandon (Northumbria) and Guest (TBD): Introducing Mad Studies

Natasha Downs (Edinburgh): A Mad-positive reading of Japanese Translations of Romance of the Three Kingdoms

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.