Dr Neil Vickers
Reader in English Literature & Medical Humanities
BA (TCD), DEA (Paris VII), MPhil & DPhil (Oxford)
Tel +44 (0)20 7848 1541
Address Department of English
King's College London
London WC2R 2LS
I joined the department in 2005 as Lecturer in Literature and Medicine, having previously had a career in epidemiology and public health. Following a BA at Trinity College Dublin, I went to Paris where I studied at the Ecole Normale Supérieure and the Université de Paris VII (Jussieu). My MPhil and DPhil research - on Coleridge - was carried out at Balliol College, Oxford. Previous posts in English include a stint as University Lecturer in Romanticism at Cambridge and Stipendiary Lecturer in English at Jesus College, Oxford.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Medical Culture
I have written one book, Coleridge and the Doctors 1795-1806 (OUP, 2004) which examines Coleridge's participation in the medical culture of his time. The book's fundamental claim is that Coleridge's intellectual development cannot be understood independently of his medical endeavours. When Coleridge lost his health aged only 28 he believed his ailments were caused by a series of experiments he had recently 'on his own senses'. These experiments were embedded in a set of assumptions about the interaction of the body and mind which he believed could lead to advances in contemporary medical thought. The medical researches he undertook over the next ten or so years subtended his all of his endeavours, with powerful implications for the understanding of the relationship between physiology and cosmology and the specific character of imaginative and religious experience.
Since then, I have published articles on Coleridge's knowledge of the German psychological tradition, especially that associated with Karl Philipp Moritz.. Against the grain of much recent work in literary Romanticism, these aim to shed fresh light on the meaning of psychology in the Romantic period by considering the full range of medical ideas that were current then - not merely those that foreshadowed later developments.
History of Psychiatry and British Psychoanalysis
I have an interest in the history of psychiatry and the history of British psychoanalysis and am a strong admirer of the psychoanalytic view of the mind. I have recently published two articles on psychoanalytic subjects. The first deals with the early career of the Kleinian analyst Roger Money-Kyrle (1898-1980), specifically with his attempts to merge psychoanalysis, anthropology and eugenics into a single science. The second concerns the nature of the psychoanalytic case history. What makes some case histories 'classics'? How do they differ from other kinds of psychoanalytic case histories? And how do they differ from psychiatric case histories?
I am a member of KCL's Wellcome-funded Centre for the Humanities and Health. With Brian Hurwitz, I set up what we believe is the world's first MA in Literature and Medicine. Brian and I will take forward the research strand on Illness Narrative in the project.
Over the last two decades there has been an explosion of interest in the literary possibilities of illness. According to Ann Hunsaker Hawkins (1993), illness narratives began to form a distinct publishing phenomenon in or about 1950. Extremely rare before 1900, over the last twenty years they have become almost commonplace. Previously recognisable as the sub-genre of the self-help book and the preserve of patients, they have since been joined by a series works in the late 1980s written by accomplished authors (who recounted experiences of illness as patients and as carers). John Updike's Self-Consciousness (1989) and William Styron's Darkness Visible (1990), a memoir of the author's struggles with depression, are notable examples.
With the publication in 1993 of John Bayley's Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch (1993) illness narratives began to reach a much larger public, an effect significantly amplified by the Hollywood film, Iris. Over the same period, patient groups have used the internet to develop illness narratives and illness has become an integral part of the life imagined and lived out on Second Life. Our project will consider, among other things, the increasingly complex and rich contribution that illness narratives make to the public understanding of illness experience.
Neil Vickers (2009) 'Coleridge's marriage and family', in The Oxford Handbook of Samuel Taylor Coleridge pp. 68-88 [Chapter]
Neil Vickers (2009) 'Roger Money-Kyrle's 'Aspasia: the Future of Amorality' (1932) ' INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS, 34 (1), pp. 91-106. [Article in print Journal]
Neil Vickers (2009) 'Roger Money-Kyrle's Aspasia: The Future of Amorality (1932)' INTERDISCIPLINARY SCIENCE REVIEWS, 34 (1), pp. 91-106. [Article in print Journal]
Neil Vickers (2009) 'THOMAS BEDDOES AND THE GERMAN PSYCHOLOGICAL TRADITION' Notes And Records Of The Royal Society, 63 (3), pp. 311-321. [Article in print Journal]
Neil Vickers (2009) 'Thomas Beddoes and the German Psychological Tradition' Notes And Records Of The Royal Society, 63 (3), pp. 311-321. [Article in print Journal]
B Hurwitz, N Vickers (2008) 'Literature and medicine' Clinical Medicine, 8 (1), pp. 109-110. [Editorial Material (Print)]
Neil Vickers (2008) 'Medical Anthropology in Jane Austen's 'Emma'' Clinical Medicine, 8 (2), pp. 223-224. [Article in print Journal]
N Vickers (2008) 'Medical anthropology in Jane Austen's Emma' Clinical Medicine, 8 (2), pp. 223-224. [Article in print Journal]
I convene one undergraduate module on Literature and Psychoanalysis and two MA modules, one on Illness Narrative as Fiction and as Life Writing, the other on Literature and Psychiatry in the Twentieth Century. I also contribute to teaching on the MA in Eighteenth-Century Studies that King's offers jointly with the British Museum and to the BA and the MA programmes in Comparative Literature.
I would welcome enquiries from prospective graduate students in any of my research areas as described on my research page.