Birkbeck Medical Humanities Reading Group Spring Term 2018

The Birkbeck Medical Humanities Reading Group will meet twice in the Spring Term to consider Attention and its Medicalization. The sessions will speak to each other but it’s fine to attend just one.  Everyone is welcome! There is no need to book.

1 March 2018, 2-3.30pm, Malet Street Building, London, WC1E 7HX – Room 420: Reading Attention

22 March 2018, 2-3.30pm, 43 Gordon Square, London, WC1H 0PD – Room 114 (Keynes Library): Medicalizing Attention

  • Matthew Smith, “The First Hyperactive Children”, Hyperactive: The Controversial History of ADHD. Reaktion, 2012, pp. 46-74.
  • Ilina Singh, “A disorder of anger and aggression: Children’s perspectives on attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in the UK”, Social Science and Medicine 73 (2011): 889-896.

Further reading: Simon Bailey, “ADHD Mythology”, in Rethinking Disability Theory and Practice: Challenging Essentialism, ed. Karin Lesnik Oberstein. Palgrave, 2015, pp. 98-117.

Led by Sophie A. Jones and Bozhena Zoritch.

Email Sophie ( for a copy of the reading (include your Dropbox-linked email address if you have one). For directions to our Bloomsbury campus please see

Visit the Birkbeck Centre for Medical Humanities website for more information about our activities, and please do forward this on to any interested parties.

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Birkbeck Medical Humanities Reading Group – 7 December 2017

The Birkbeck Medical Humanities Reading Group meets on 7th December to consider the topic of non-conception. The meeting is preceded by a guided tour of the Conceiving Histories exhibition for those that can make it. Full details of the prior reading are below.

On Non-Conception

The Reading Group will meet on 7th December 3-4.30, Room 321, 43 Gordon Square, London. WC1H 0PD.

Led by Dr Isabel Davis

This session of the Reading Group coincides with the  Conceiving Histories Exhibition in the Peltz Gallery, 8th November-13th December. Members attending the group might like to visit the exhibtion before the Reading Group meets. A guided tour will be starting at 2pm on 7th December if you would like to join. Meet in the gallery. No need to book.

Prior reading:
Is available by following the links below. To print it out you need to download the whole file and then select the correct page numbers on your print options.

  • William Harvey, On Conception. This is added on to On Generation. You can read an English translation in The Works of William Harvey, trans. R. Willis (London: Sydenham Society, 1847), pp. 575-86. Link:
  • Robert Lyall, The medical evidence relative to the duration of human pregnancy, as given in the Gardner peerage cause, before the Committee for Privileges of the House of lords in 1825-26 (London: Burgess and Hill, 1826), footnote plan for the Experimental Conception Hospital. The whole book is interesting, but the footnote in question is on page xvii. Link:

Everyone is welcome. There is no need to book.

The Birkbeck Medical Humanities Reading Group aims to create a space in which academics, clinicians and students can come together to explore key readings, ideas and materials in the field of medical humanities. Our endeavour is to find ways of talking across the different disciplines of the humanities and medicine, and we welcome participation from colleagues and students interested and engaged in these areas.

For details of previous sessions, please click here.

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Birkbeck Eighteenth-Century Research Group: 30 November 17

Birkbeck Eighteenth-Century Research Group:

Reading Group, led by Emma Dowley, ‘Propaganda and Satire during the Jacobite Rebellion of ’45’

12-2pm, Thursday 30 November

Room 317, 43 Gordon Square

The last Jacobite rebellion of 1745/6 saw Charles Edward Stuart attempt to overthrow George II on behalf of his father, James. The growing market appetite for printed imagery that the rebellion spawned was consistent with a pattern set during times of political turbulence, reaching back to the Exclusion Crisis of the seventeenth century, but the volume of the output in 1745 and 1746 was unprecedented. The prints that are the subject of my thesis addressed the broader political and religious debates that were the principal causes of the division between the supporters of the house of Hanover and the exiled line of the Stuart dynasty. They attempted to paint as damaging a picture as possible of the Jacobites, France and the Catholic Church (the latter two presumed to be backing the rising), the ideological underpinning of Charles Edward’s mission and the potential consequences if he eventually succeeded. There is no evidence that the prints were part of a government orchestrated propaganda campaign, but Herbert Atherton has stated that, ‘their effect, taken in the context of the contemporary moment, may have given them the value of propaganda, especially when the tempo of polemic quickened’, as it did in 1745.

During the reading group session, I am interested in exploring to what extent these prints may be considered as propaganda, even if they were not officially sponsored. The preparatory ‘reading’ is the following three images:

The Invasion, or Perkin’s Triumph:

The Highland Visitors:

The Fate of Rebellion:

Emma Dowley is a PhD student in History of Art at Birkbeck, working on anti-jacobite imagery in the eighteenth century.

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Capital Reading Group Vol 2 – 31 October 2017 and beyond

Do you want to read Marx’s Capital?

Having completed Volume I, Birkbeck’s Capital Reading Group is beginning Volume II and you’re invited to join us. The group meets fortnightly on Tuesdays and is a friendly setting in which to study the text closely, ask any questions you may have and gain a deeper understanding of Marx’s work and concepts.

The next session takes place at 7pm on 31 October in Room 106, 43 Gordon Square. No reading is necessary for this session, which will consist of an introductory presentation about Volume II and a discussion of the reading strategy for the coming weeks.

The edition we’re using is the Penguin Classics version, but the use of other editions and translations is more than welcome.

For more session times and resources, please visit or contact

Many thanks,


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Contemporary German Fiction Reading Group Summer Term 2017

Dear All,

I’d like to invite you to join me for this year’s contemporary German fiction reading group. This is an optional event, open to all. You are very welcome to come along to any one or more of the sessions. All you need to do is to read the novel in advance, either in German or English translation and come prepared to discuss it.

These are the novels we will be reading and discussing this year.


Wednesday 24 May Daniel Kehlmann, F (2013) GOR 321
Thursday 1 June Judith Schalansky, Der Hals der Giraffe / The Giraffe’s Neck (2011) GOR 106
Wednesday 14 June Olga Grjasnova, Der Russe ist einer, der Birken liebt / All Russians Love Birch Trees (2012) tbc
Thursday 28 June Lutz Seiler, Kruso (2014) GOR 106
Wednesday 12 July Wolfgang Herrndorf, Sand (2011) GOR 321

All sessions will take place from 6.00-7.20.

If you’d like any further information about the reading group, please contact Joanne Leal:

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London 18th-Century Postgraduate Reading Group, 24 March 17 – High Art and Low Art

London 18th-Century Postgraduate Reading Group, 24 March – High Art and Low Art

Join us for the next session of the London 18th-Century Postgraduate Reading Group, 3.30-5 pm on Friday 24 March, in Room 106, School of Arts, Birkbeck (43 Gordon Square, WC1H 0PD).

The hierarchies of art at the Royal Academy and the Society of Arts’ system of awards for excellence in drawing and design meant that most forms of artistic endeavour were categorised, ranked and compared in increasingly complex ways during the second half of the eighteenth century. However, the categories were permeable: many artists made careers both in high art and in the commercial world of product catalogues, advertising everyday goods. This session will look at some prints of ‘everyday’ items made by William Blake and John Bacon, with readings and images put together by Miriam Al Jamil (PhD candidate, Arts and Humanities, Birkbeck).

Guided by Granger’s category of ‘Painters, Artificers, Mechanics, and all of inferior professions’, we will look at Wedgwood’s catalogue – with its assertion that he would ‘rather give up the making of any particular article altogether, than suffer it to be degraded’ – together with an article by Anne Puetz, which discusses artisan instruction and 18th-century concerns about England’s competitiveness in the luxury goods trade. How did artists, designers and producers negotiate and engage with the status of artisanal work, and attempt to elevate and improve it? Did artists successfully straddle the divide or was there a penalty?

The readings are:

Josiah Wedgwood, Catalogue of Cameos, Intaglios, Medals, Bas-Reliefs, Busts and Small Statues (Etruria, 1787), pp. 63-73 – available here.

James Granger, A Biographical History of England […] consisting of Characters Disposed in Different Classes, and Adapted to a Methodical Catalogue of Engraved British Heads, 4 vols. (1769; 4th edn. London, 1804), I, ‘Plan of the Catalogue’, ‘Preface’, and  pp. 277-83 – available here.

Anne Puetz, ‘Design Instruction for Artisans in Eighteenth-Century Britain’, Journal of Design History, 12 (1999), 217-39 – available here.

And the images are:

  1. William Blake, Creamware Shapes, from the Wedgwood Catalogue (1817).
  2. William Blake, River God, from Eleanor Coade, Coade’s Lithodipyra, or, Artificial Stone Manufactory: for all kind of statues, capitals, vases, tombs, coats of arms, & architectural ornaments &c. &c (London, 1784)
  3. John Bacon, Stock Classical Figures to hold candelabra [etching], from Coade’s Lithodipyra
  4. John Bacon, Further Classical Statuary [etching] from Coade’s Lithodipyra

These are all available here.

The London 18th-Century Postgraduate Reading Group is a student-run reading group organised in collaboration with the Centre for Enlightenment Studies at King’s and Birkbeck Eighteenth-Century Research Group. Staff and students at all London universities are very welcome. The reading group concentrates on a different theme each academic year, with an emphasis on primary texts and recent criticism. For more information, view the reading group’s blog.

If you have any queries about the readings or the reading group, please contact Robert Stearn ( or Miriam Al Jamil (

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Medical Humanities Reading Group: Thursday 23 March 3-4.30pm

Our next reading group will explore the relationship between portraiture and illness, and will be led by the artist Tim Wainwright.

We will meet on Thursday 23 March, 3-4.30pm in Room BO2, Birkbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square.

Set texts:

  • Transplant & Life digital guide:
  • Tamar Tembeck, ‘Selfies of Ill Health: Online Autopathographic Photography and the Dramaturgy of the Everyday’, Social Media + Society, 2:1 (2016) (available online or via the Reading Group’s shared Dropbox folder: for further details of how to access, please contact Heather Tilley).

More details can be found on our website.

Please do forward details on to interested colleagues and postgraduate students.

Kind regards


Dr Heather Tilley

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Digital Aesthetics Reading Group – 21 March 2017 3pm


The next meeting of the Vasari Research Centre hosted Digital Aesthetics Reading Group will take place on the 21st of March from 3pm to 5pm in the Vasari Centre, 43 Gordon Square.

For this meeting we will be reading the work of French philosopher Bernard Stiegler. The readings, a short essay entitled “Suffocated Desire, Or How the Cultural Industry Destroys the Individual” and two excerpts from Stiegler’s book Symbolic Misery, are available as pdfs upon request. I hope some of you will be able to join us on the 21st.

All best wishes,


Dr. Joel McKim

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Architecture Space and Society Centre Reading Group – 16 March 2017 3-4.30 – The Industrial City

A reminder of the reading group next Thursday:

Our next Architecture Space and Society Centre reading group meeting is on Thursday March 16, 3-4.30pm in the Keynes Library, 43 Gordon Sq. You are all warmly invited to join what promises to be a rich and lively discussion, with the focus on the industrial city. Please also circulate to any PhD students who might be interested.

Discussion will be led by Mark Crinson.  The readings and images are available here:

A message from Mark:

The Industrial City

For our next reading group I have got together some images and texts on the topic of the industrial city. Most of the material is pretty classic stuff on this subject but it could all do with a closer scrutiny and new angles on to it. It includes the following two readings –

Friedrich Engels – extract from The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845), pp82-109 in the current Penguin edition.

Elizabeth Gaskell – extract from North and South (1855), chapter 8 ‘Home Sickness’

There are also five images –

James Mudd – ‘The River Irwell from Blackfriars Bridge’ (1859)

James Mudd – untitled photograph of mills in Manchester (c1860)

William Wyld – ‘Manchester from Kersal Moor’ (1857)

AWN Pugin – Contrasted Towns, from Contrasts (1840)

Robert Owen – ‘The Old Moral World and the New Moral World’ (1832) and ‘Plan of a Self Supporting Home Colony’ (1841)

The Architecture Space and Society Reading Group meets once or twice a term to discuss a wide range of texts, sites and questions related to architecture and space, across periods, geographies and disciplines.

All meetings are on Thursday, 3-4.30pm

Upcoming meetings and people taking the lead:
16 March: Mark Crinson, Keynes (see above)
11 May: Lesley McFadyen, Gordon Sq, G02
15 June: Tag Gronberg, Keynes

Dr Leslie Topp
Department of History of Art, Birkbeck, University of London

Architecture Space and Society Centre


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London 18th-Century Postgraduate Reading Group – 3 March 2017 3.30pm

London 18th-Century Postgraduate Reading Group, 3rd March 2017

Christopher Smart & Empiricist Devotion

All welcome at this term’s second session of the London 18th-Century Postgraduate Reading Group, 3.30-5 pm on Friday 3rd March. We will be in room 1.21 of the Franklin-Wilkins building, at King’s College London’s Waterloo Campus (map here).

Continuing with the theme ‘the everyday’ with readings put together by Ari Messer (PhD candidate, English & Humanities, Birkbeck), we will be looking at Christopher Smart’s The Hop-Garden (written 1742-43; first published 1752) – a georgic poem in blank verse about growing hops – and a chapter from Courtney Weiss Smith’s recent book that argues for an alternative view of the eighteenth-century georgic as an empirical-devotional mode. The readings are:

Christopher Smart, The Hop-Garden, in The Poetical Works of Christopher Smart, ed. Karina Williamson and Marcus Walsh (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1980-96), IV, pp. 41-65

Courtney Weiss Smith, Empiricist Devotions (London: University of Virginia Press, 2016), pp. 173-210.

Those with more time may also wish to look at a short chapter from Chris Mounsey’s book on Smart, which situates the poem as a comic, non-religious response to John Philips’s Cyder (1708):

Chris Mounsey, Christopher Smart: Clown of God (Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 2001), pp. 64-80.

All the readings are available online here.

The georgic was an ‘everyday’ mode of conversing about natural subjects such as agriculture in eighteenth-century Britain, but one which has only recently been put under the lens of historical poetics. Does The Hop-Garden participate in what Weiss identifies as ‘meditative empiricism’, or is it just a funny poem about farming?

The London 18th-Century Postgraduate Reading Group is a student-run reading group organised in collaboration with the Centre for Enlightenment Studies at King’s and Birkbeck Eighteenth-Century Research Group. Staff and students at all London universities are very welcome. The reading group concentrates on a different theme each academic year, with an emphasis on primary texts and recent criticism. For more informations, view the reading group’s blog.

If you have any queries about the readings or the reading group, please contact Robert Stearn ( or Ari Messer (

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