This blog is run by Samantha Peel, who is going to write in first person from here on in.
I am a MA graduate from the University of York with broad interests in literature and history. My background is in ex-communist literary intellectual disillusionment, and recently I’ve developed an interest in literary histories of mental health.
My research on ex-communist authors and intellectual figures has focused on the emotional politics of their disillusionment and the religious/spiritual language that they used to outline their experiences. This has also involved a detailed study of the Spanish Civil War from the perspectives of these different international figures. In trying to understand how these figures conceived of all-consuming political ideologies in their time, I have tried to challenge the historiographical tendency to dismiss the figures as anti-communists let down by the mythical ‘God that failed.’ In doing this I have also written about the usurpation of their political legacy by modern political commentators, and the curious obsession of many conservative movements with trying to ‘claim’ their work.
In working on mid-century political writing I also developed an interest in the presented crossover between psychoanalytical theories, ideological extremes, and political ‘neuroses.’ Looking at authors who depicted communism, fascism and anything in between as political ‘illness,’ as psychologically ‘deviant’ and marred with Freudian slips is a fascinating aside for this project. It’s a different and novel way of understanding guilt, repression, self-denial and deception in these authors’ minds.
After my time as a student at University of York ended, I worked an Outreach Historian at their Centre for Global Health Histories, contributing to publicity, ongoing seminar series, public engagement and output. I co-edited and contributed a chapter to the forthcoming poster-book about the histories, futures and present problems in attitudes towards and treatment of mental health. My chapter focuses on the use of electricity in relation to the treatment of mental illness from the earliest experiments in Europe in the latter part of the eighteenth century up to the present day. It has been described as ‘thorough, intriguing and disconcerting.’
This experience has inspired my most recent research project, which looks at the literary
depictions of Electroconvulsive Therapy in the USA, during the long 1960s. Specifically I am interested in narratives of control and subversive identities, with a view to understanding how ECT impacted concepts of selfhood in relation to gender, race, sexuality and other identities, which were becoming increasingly important in this time of counter-cultural politics. I am also interested in the changing attitudes towards ECT with regards to the development of the anti-psychiatry movement, also called ‘Mad Pride,’ and the idea that mental illness can or should be a political identity.
I have a broad interest in all manner of literary histories and I am always looking for new topics to pique my interest. I enjoy reading about gender politics, radical thinkers, revolutions and political authors, with a long-standing focus on the US. I love hearing about new ways to learn and discuss these kind of interests online, and I am interested the idea of podcasting and micro-blogging communally. You can contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment anywhere on this blog and I’ll get back to you. I’m also on twitter in infrequent but violent bursts as @SamanthaJPeel.