Towards a Cultural History of Exhaustion: Anna Katharina Schaffner (Public Lecture, 25th April 2013)

The School of Modern Languages and Cultures Literature, History, Theory Research Group at the University of Durham presents

Towards a Cultural History of Exhaustion
Dr Anna Katharina Schaffner (Comparative Literature, University of Kent)
Thursday 25 April, 5.00-7.00 pm
A56 Elvet Riverside, Durham University

This paper explores how ‘exhaustion’ – understood both as a subjective physico-psychological experience and a broader phenomenon manifest in various modes of cultural pessimism – is theorized and represented in medical, psychological and literary discourses. Conceptions of individual exhaustion often overlap with other diagnostic categories that include weakness, nervousness, neurasthenia, melancholia, depression, ME, Chronic Fatigue Disorder and burn-out, amongst others. Many theorists of exhaustion not only claim that it is a specifically ‘modern’ phenomenon, situated somewhere between personal ailment and cultural condition, but also tend to define it as either a somatic or a psychological illness. The concept thus provides an opening into more general mind/body and psychology vs. biology debates, and allows for an exploration of the ways in which the dialectic between inside and outside, between the individual, society and the cultural and natural environment, has been construed in medical and literary works.

This public lecture is free and all are welcome. For more information contact Dr Caitríona Ni Dhuill.

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