As the 2021-2022 academic year ends, we are looking forward to welcoming new members to the STS program in the fall, but we are also saying goodbye to a faculty member who will be greatly missed.
After the retirement last year of our previous department head, Allison Gilmore, and the capable leadership of Frank Van Nuys this spring, we will begin the 2022-2023 year with a new department head: Kyle Knight. He comes to us from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where he was Associate Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Department of Sociology. He has an emphasis in environmental sociology, which will add new expertise to the STS program’s environment & sustainability track.
We also welcome two new assistant professors: Gerrit Scheepers as Assistant Professor of Music and Paul Showler as Assistant Professor of Philosophy!
We are excited to get to know and work with all of them. Look for more about and/or from each of them in the future!
And a Sad Goodbye
Even as we look forward to new people joining us, we are very sad to say goodbye to Laura Kremmel (Assistant Professor of English & Humanities), who has accepted a position at Brandeis University. She has been a wonderful colleague and friend for the years she has been here, and little we could write in this short space would adequately express our sadness that she is leaving. Nonetheless, we all wish her well and hope that her colleagues at Brandeis appreciate her!
Laura Kremmel is Assistant Professor of English & Humanities.
What’s your area of expertise? What do you primarily research and/or teach? And what drew you to this field?
My training is in Gothic Studies and British Romanticism (British literature of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries), so my expertise is in the early Gothic novels, poetry, and drama that started the Gothic tradition we still read today. I’ve always been particularly interested in two authors: Matthew Lewis, who wrote a scandalous novel called The Monk (1796), and Charlotte Dacre, who wrote an even more scandalous novel called Zofloya (1806). Both are about transgressing boundaries through shockingly graphic and gory scenes, leading me to become curious about the ways that they challenge conventional understandings of what bodies are, do, or could be.
In my teaching and recent research, I’ve expanded into the Health Humanities, history of medicine, other eras of Gothic literature, and horror film. The Gothic is so obsessed with empowering bodies of all kinds that there’s a lot of work in combining the Gothic with the Health Humanities, Disability Studies, and Death Studies. I started to see these fields coming together while visiting medical museums (like the Mütter Museum in Philadelphia), where I saw Gothic narratives being applied to the history of medicine and its impacts.
The film is about a séance held by five friends and a medium, all in different locations and connected to each other not only through the medium leading them or their shared concentration but also through Zoom, a program we’ve all come to rely on to make us feel connected to each other. As the trailer asks, what if it connects us with something else?
For the second entry in our series on women in science and technology, we turn to women working on medicine and health. These women have forged new ground in medical education, done important work alongside men, and helped fill gaps in medical research by paying attention to women’s bodies.
The Edinburgh Seven – selected by Laura Kremmel
The Edinburgh Seven were not only the first women medical students in Britain, they were also the first British women to be undergraduates of any field. They included Sophia Jex-Blake, Mary Anderson, Emily Bovell, Matilda Chaplin, Helen Evans, Edith Pechey, and Isabel Thorne. After being admitted to the University of Edinburgh in 1869, they had to fight for every advancement, including assessments and clinicals, sometimes against the system and its policies and sometimes against their own professors and the men in their classes. The following year, building anger against the women culminated in the Surgeon’s Hall Riots, in which a hostile crowd of hundreds (and one sheep) attempted to prevent them from entering the building to take an exam. Despite their perseverance, they were ultimately denied their degrees. In response, they started the London School of Medicine for Women. Sophia Jex-Blake became the first woman doctor in Edinburgh, and the others continued to work in medicine in various ways.
The story of the Edinburgh Seven resurfaced in the public eye in 2019, when seven women medical students received posthumous degrees on their behalf, finally giving them the recognition for which they worked so hard. Learn more in this short video about the 2019 event.
Virginia E. Johnson – selected by Kayla Pritchard
When she was hired by gynecologist William Masters in 1970 to be his assistant in his sexology lab, their work dramatically shaped our understanding of human sexual response. As half of the “Masters and Johnson” duo, they studied the physiology and biomechanics of human sexual response, identifying what they called the “sexual response cycle,” a predictable pattern of Excitement, Plateau, Orgasm, and Resolution. Despite not having a college degree, Johnson was integral to the success of Masters’ lab. Because they were observing and measuring people actually have sex, it was Johnson’s soothing and comforting mannerisms that put people at ease and allowed the work to take place, and she also collaborated on the development of the instruments they were using. While their work is not without controversy, they fundamentally changed how researchers, doctors, and psychiatrists talked about and approached sex with their patients.
Stacy Sims – selected by Olivia Burgess
As someone with an interest in endurance sports, I’m always on the lookout for information related to nutrition, training, and health. However, most research takes a “shrink it and pink it” approach to women: take what you do for a man and then extrapolate it for a woman. Exercise physiologist and nutrition scientist Dr. Stacy Sims challenged that paradigm by researching how women’s training and nutrition needs are unique from men’s. As she says, “women are not small men.” She launched her own educational website and sports performance nutrition brand after serving as a research scientist at Stanford University from 2007-2012. In 2017, she was recognized as “one of the top 4 visionaries” in the outdoor sports industry by Outside Magazine.
I consider her a scientist worthy of note for two main reasons: 1) she saw a gap in research related to women’s health and responded by researching women to understand women, and 2) she successfully balances her academic and scientific research with effective mainstream communication to educate women around the world. In 2016, she published Roar: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life. She is currently a Senior Research Associate at Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand.
In the twentieth century, medicine became an institution: a complex system of technology, finance, and liability. Out of this century, we get White Coat Syndrome (fear of hospitals and doctors), tales of surgical conspiracies, isolating and invasive treatments, and economic systems determined to banish humanity from the art of healing. Unlike the hackneyed anatomists of the eighteenth century or the reformer physicians of the nineteenth century, twentieth-century doctors, surgeons, and nurses become small actors in a system that manages them, one that can simultaneously feel like a living, breathing creature and a cold, impenetrable structure. The field of Medical Humanities arose out of these developments, at least partially out of fear.
In this presentation, Dr. Kremmel shares some work in progress on the contentious relationship between the Medical Humanities and the Gothic/Horror tradition. The first part will include what the Medical Humanities is and why it’s important. The second part will include a closer look at Gothic interpretations of such topics as systemic/independent medical practice, organ harvesting, disease and contagion.