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Therapy of the Writing Desk: Inkblots and Queer Health in Sarah Orne Jewett and Annie Adams Fields

Don James McLaughlin, PhD

Date: Time: 3:30 pm–5:00 pm
Andrews Hall Room: Bailey Library (Room 229)
Additional Info: ANDR
Contact: Melissa Homestead, mhomestead2@unl.edu
Sponsored by the Program in Interdisciplinary Nineteenth-Century Studies, Humanities in Medicine, the Research Council, and the Department of English.

Don James McLaughlin is an assistant professor at the University of Tulsa. His research focuses on late 18th and 19th century literary movements in the Americas, histories of medicine and psychiatry, disability studies, queer historiography; and the history of emotions. Research for his dissertation and and first book manuscript, Phobia: The Therapeutic Imagination in American Liberalism, has been supported by the Penn Humanities Forum, American Antiquarian Society, a Marguerite Bartlett Hamer Dissertation Fellowship at the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, and a Quarry Farm Fellowship from the Center for Mark Twain Studies. He has published on the history of medicine, genealogies of black queer theory, progressive print cultures, and disability history in American Literature, Literature and Medicine, J19: The Journal of Nineteenth-Century Americanists, the New Republic, Common-place: The Journal of Early American Life, Public Books, and Legacies, the magazine of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. His edition of Sarah Orne Jewett’s novel A Marsh Island is forthcoming in the Q19 series from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

In his lecture, McLaughlin will theorize the concept of “queer health” and its relationship to writing as a therapeutic activity, exploring this theme through the unlikely medium of blotting paper, a lowly and yet indispensable material for those who wrote with pen and ink in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. McLaughlin will use as an example a piece of blotting paper preserved at the Massachusetts Historical Society in the papers of Annie Adams Fields, who lived for many years in partnership with fiction writer Sarah Orne Jewett. Fields used this blotting paper in producing diary entries expressing her grief at Jewett’s death, and McLaughlin links Fields’s use of this object to Jewett’s references to blotting paper as an allegory for bereavement in fiction she wrote decades earlier. Theorizing Fields’s use of blotting paper as “affective refuse,” he locates a tension between excess and containment and between what is ephemeral and what is permanent as an essential feature of queer approaches to the meaning of health.

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This event originated in Department of English.