Skip to content
Skip to navigation menu

 

Dr Tracey Loughran 


Projects

I am currently pursuing three research projects.

1. Frames of Mind: Shell-shock and British Medical Culture, 1860-1930.

This monograph examines the formation of the medical diagnosis of “shell-shock” and allied disorders in First World War Britain. It is concerned with the intellectual resources doctors drew on as they struggled to make sense of nervous collapse, and with the influence of “shell-shock” on psychological medicine. The experience of “shell-shock” is conventionally viewed as forcing the realization that any man could break down under sufficient stress, encouraging the adoption of psychodynamic approaches (including psychoanalysis) within psychological medicine, and promoting the adoption of voluntary forms of treatment for mental illness. Although “shell-shock” did force an urgent engagement with problems of mind and nerves as long as the war lasted, medical approaches were formulated within an older evolutionary framework of understanding, which viewed mental breakdown as regression to a level characteristic of earlier stages of individual or racial development. As such, “shell-shock” appeared to confirm the existence of the primitive within each man, and to underline the fragility of “civilization” itself. An exploration of the role of concepts of mind-body relations, gender, will-power, and instinct within the diagnosis of “shell-shock” locates the disorder within a series of debates on human identity dating back to the Darwinian revolution, and extending far beyond the medical sphere. Frames of Mind is based on research funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Economic and Social Research Council, and the Scouloudi Foundation, and will be completed in 2014.


2. Psychoanalysis and Everyday Life in Britain, c. 1900-1950

W.H. Auden contended that by the time of his death in 1939, Sigmund Freud was ‘no more a person / Now but a whole climate of opinion’. Although the First World War was an important turning-point in raising awareness of psychological modes of understanding among the British population, psychoanalysis remained a minority treatment over the next two decades. However, by the outbreak of the Second World War its key concepts and practices – the importance of childhood experience in shaping adult personality, repression, dream analysis, the ‘talking cure’ – were the stuff of popular magazine articles and street chatter, albeit often in somewhat simplistic or mutated form. This seepage of psychoanalysis into the background of everyday life is what Auden meant by a ‘climate of opinion’. It entailed a fundamental and widespread shift in ways of explaining human nature and the self, and as such, it was one of the most important changes in twentieth-century British culture. To date, little attention has been devoted to the process of dissemination of psychoanalytic thought in popular culture: to the ways in which psychoanalytic concepts mutated and melded with other forms of understanding human nature, including those derived from religion, as they were diffused; to the uses of psychoanalytic concepts in specific contexts; and to the particular mechanisms of transmission for these ideas within popular culture. This project is an attempt to write a history of understandings of consciousness and the self within mass culture. It will track the diffusion of new modes of understanding by tracing psychoanalytic concepts and ideas across many different spheres of activity, paying close attention to language and context, and taking account of multiple potential origins, intermediaries, and consequences. I have been awarded a Harry Ransom Research Center Fellowship, funded by the C.P. Snow Memorial Fund, to undertake research on ‘Graham Greene, Psychoanalysis, and Popular Culture in First World War Britain’, as the first part of this project.


3. Women, Health and Medicine in Female Print Culture, c. 1960-1980

In June 2010 I was awarded a British Academy Small Grant to conduct preliminary research on a project investigating the role of medical knowledge and representations of health in a range of print media aimed at, or produced by, women in the period 1960-1980. The project examines the gendering of representations of health and illness in women’s magazines; the transmission, diffusion and mutation of ideas about women, health and medicine in these forums; and the extent to which different groups of women rejected, challenged, or modified ‘scientific’ or culturally dominant concepts of healthy womanhood. Its aim is to shed light on the ways in which women were perceived and targeted as important mediators of practical medical knowledge with a vital role in protecting the health of the family, and enable analysis of the shifting set of power relations women were involved in as consumers, ‘everyday practitioners’, and producers of medical knowledges. This project reflects my interest in the relationship between discourse and experience, and in women’s and gender history. It has generated publications on using magazines as historical sources (in preparation), and in future years I intend to pursue further interests arising from this research, on menstrual time and on mother-daughter relationships. Another result of this research was the international Infertility in History, Science and Culture conference co-hosted by myself and Dr. Gayle Davis (University of Edinburgh), and supported by the Wellcome Trust, the Social Society for the History of Medicine, Cardiff University, and the University of Edinburgh. An edited collection arising from the conference is currently in preparation.

Research Activities

Co-convenor of the Families, Identities and Gender Research Network (FIG)

The Families, Identities, and Gender Research Network (FIG) is an interdisciplinary research group convened by members of ENCAP, PSYCH, SHARE and SOCSI. FIG explores the following areas:

  • different disciplinary definitions, concepts, and approaches to the study of family, identity, and gender
  • different subjective (bodily, emotional, and psychological) experiences of family, identity and gender, and their appropriate modes of investigation;
  • modes of representation of family, identity, and gender, and their social, political, and historical influence;
  • the relation of gender and family to other central organising concepts and aspects of identity such as race, class, and place.

FIG events move beyond the traditional research seminar and encourage participation, discussion, and exchange of ideas. We are particularly keen to involve postgraduate students and to foster a research environment which includes postgraduate and more established scholars. If you would like to find out more about FIG events, see our website at: http://sites.cardiff.ac.uk/fig/. If you would like to be added to the mailing list, please contact me at LoughranTL@cardiff.ac.uk.

Membership of Societies

  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
  • Committee Member of the West of England and South Wales Women’s History Network
  • Member of the Social History Society
  • Member of the Society for the Social History of Medicine

Selected Conference Papers (since 2008)

  • ‘Constructing and re-constructing trauma: psychological medicine and the creation and transformation of discursive communities, c. 1914-1945’, (Re)Constructing Communities in Europe, 1918-1968 Conference, Radbourd University Nijmegen, Netherlands, December 2013.
  •  ‘Landscape for a Good Woman’s Weekly: finding magazines in British history and culture, c. 1950-1980’, Women in Magazines Conference, Kingston University, June 2012.
  •  ‘The right to choose? Infertility, feminism, and popular medical discourses in 1970s Britain’, Body and Mind in the History of Medicine and Health, European Association for the History of Medicine and Health Bi-annual Conference, Utrecht, September 2011.
  • ‘Woman-to-Woman: gender, expertise, and care-giving in 1960s British women’s magazines’, For Love or Money? Historical Perspectives on Gender and Emotional Labour, West of England and South Wales Women’s History Network Conference, University of the West of England, July 2011.
  •  ‘Bloody women: rejections and reclamations of menstruation in 1970s British feminism’, Politics and Practices: the History of Post-war Women’s Health Conference, Centre for the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, University of Manchester, October 2010.
  •  ‘The frustration and inspiration of women’s magazines: Spare Rib and the attempt to build new ‘imagined communities’ of women readers in the 1970s’, Women, Gender and Political Spaces: Historical Perspectives: 18th Annual Conference of the Women’s History Network.
  •  ‘Our bodies, ourselves? Health, womanhood, and the sexual body in 1970s British feminism’, Social History Society Annual Conference, University of Warwick, April 2009.
  • ‘Male hysteria, traumatic neurosis, and war trauma: re-reading shell-shock as a gendered diagnosis’, Gender, Health and Medicine: The West of England and South Wales Women’s History Network 14th Annual Conference with the Centre for Medical History, University of Exeter, July 2008.

Impact and Public Engagement Activities

  • ‘The Popularity of Historical Fiction’: panel member, Novel Approaches: From Academic History to Historical Fiction Conference, Institute of Historical Research, November 2012.
  • ‘The Family Story and Oral History’: leader of open workshop as part of free one-day community event Life Stories held at St Fagan’s National History Museum, November 2010.
  • ‘History, Trauma, and The Hurt Locker (dir. Kathryn Bigelow, 2008)’: short paper and panel discussion for SciScreen Cardiff, part of a cross-disciplinary series of events which promotes the engagement of publics with science and the academy, May 2010.
  • ‘Wibble! From Blackadder to Regeneration: changing meanings of shell-shock in history and popular culture’: public lecture for the Humanities Forum Lecture Series, Cardiff Centre for Lifelong Learning, January 2010.
  • Introductory speaker at book launch for Michèle Barrett, Casualty Figures: How Five Men Survived the First World War, open-access event, Bishopsgate Institute, London, October 2008.