Health Humanities

Health humanities is an emerging strength within the English unit at Loughborough. Our research explores the intersection of English, Humanities, Health, Healthcare, and Wellbeing.

We have particular expertise in mental health in the nineteenth century, ageing and the contemporary, ill-health and work in the twenty-first century, early modern dietary culture (including Shakespeare), and early modern women’s health, pregnancy, and childbirth.




Recent activities:

  • Siân Adiseshiah works on ageing, old age, and longevity. She has written on utopia and ageing in relation to George Bernard Shaw’s 1923 play, Back to Methuselah and has a chapter forthcoming, ‘Ageing and/as Crisis in Twenty-first-century British Theatre’, in Performing Crisis in Contemporary British Theatre, ed. Clare Wallace et. al (London: Bloomsbury, 2021). Siân was Principle Convenor of British Academy conference ‘Narratives of Old Age and Gender’ (September, 2019). Her current project, ‘Ageing in the Contemporary’ examines the ways in which the ‘contemporary’ of ‘contemporary culture’ is conventionally associated with younger phases of the life course at the expense of old age.  
  • Jennifer Cooke works on feminism and gender in contemporary literature and theory, a focus that frequently leads to consideration of mental and physical health, and embodied labour such as surrogacy, sex work, and childcare. In Contemporary Feminist Life-Writing: the New Audacity (CUP, 2020), she analysed accounts of rape, mental ill-health, sex work, and experimentation with testosterone. Her current monograph project on contemporary representations of the work of mothers examines memoirs of poverty that detail the tribulations and poor mental and physical health of mothers working precarious jobs, analyses surrogacy novels and plays, and discusses the difficulties of balancing childcare with a career in academia. 
  • Joan Fitzpatrick has been involved in a number of projects relating to her expertise on early modern dietary culture, Shakespeare, and his contemporaries. These include 'ExpoShakespeare: Food Onstage' organized by Milan State University (2013- 2016) where she served as a member of the project’s Advisory Board. Joan is regularly invited to speak to the media about Shakespeare and dietary culture and was part of BBC Radio Three's 'Big Essay' series in 2016 to mark 400 years since Shakespeare's death. She is on the editorial boards of the peer-reviewed journals Early Modern Culture and Global Food History and is currently working on a book for Routledge on Shakespeare and hospitality. 
  • Elaine Hobby is interested in early-modern perceptions and experiences of health. She has edited the first English-language midwifery manual, The Birth of Mankind, which was a best-seller between 1540 and 1650 – in part, no doubt, because for its first 50 years it was the only description of the human reproductive system available in English (complete with pictures). In her work on that book, and in her earlier edition of the first midwifery manual written by a woman – Jane Sharp’s The Midwives Book (1671) – Elaine has sought to enable present-day readers to understand how it might have felt to bring babies into the world and to have responsibility for their care in the past. In the early-modern period, today’s tendency to think that physical health is separate from mental health had not yet developed, and Elaine has also worked on early-modern depression, and more generally on the relationship between diet, medicine and health. 
  • Claire O’Callaghan’s research includes constructions of health, mental health and the politics of representation. With Dr Sarah Fanning (Mount Allison University, Canada), she has a chapter forthcoming in the collection Diagnosing History: Medicine in Television Costume Drama (2021, MUP) on the representation of addiction and mental health in Brontë biopics. Claire is also writing an article on Charlotte Brontë’s account of her sister Emily’s experience of tuberculosis. Beyond this, Claire has interests in the history and representation of the nineteenth-century lunatic asylum. Claire is a co-founder of Loughborough’s Mental Health Research Network.  
  • Sara Read works on cultural representations of early modern women’s reproductive health. Her doctoral research was a study of representations of reproductive bleeding in this era from menarche to menopause, and including postpartum bleeding. Her first monograph Menstruation and the Female Body in Early Modern England was published by Palgrave in 2013. She has since published on representations of pregnancy and miscarriage. She appeared as an expert guest on BBC 3’s Free Thinking ‘All About Eve: Stories of the Fall; Pregnancy and Aphrodisiacs’. Sara works on the history of health and medicine more broadly too and co-edits the popular blog She has been published in numerous history magazines on topics related to her research, including History Today, and Who do You Think You Are? And had bylines in the iNews and Yorkshire Pose on the history of diseases. Her most recent publication was a practice as research novel in which she brought to life a fictional midwife inspired by the writings of historical figures. The Gossips’ Choice was published by Wild Pressed Books in 2020.

Group members

Jennifer Cooke

Head of English, Senior Lecturer in English

Elaine Hobby

Professor of 17th-Century Studies