Researcher biography

  • Degrees: BSc Hons Class I (Physics) UQ, BA Hons Class I (French Language and Literature) UQ, PhD (2016)
  • Supervisors: Prof. Peter Cryle & Prof. Tim Mehigan
  • Area of Research: Between ca. 1878 and 1890 in France, hypnotism experienced its “golden age.” Enquiry into hypnotism figured as a self-consciously scientific activity, and enjoyed unprecedented legitimacy and cultural authority. Studies of hypnotism and suggestion proliferated in scholarly monographs, presentations to learned societies, and medical teaching, on the one hand, and in fictional and popular works, on the other hand. My thesis explores the neglected question of what it meant to engage hypnotism as a science, and contends that to understand the limits and contours of that scientific activity, it is also necessary to examine interactions between scientific and literary knowledges. In pursuing these investigations, I take science and literature as discrete analytical categories, but flatten the hierarchy between scientific and fictional sources. I read fictional texts on an equal footing with their conventionally scientific counterparts, as capable of providing insight into epistemological tensions that arose in making hypnotic processes and hypnotised subjects the objects of scientific enquiry. Reciprocally, I read scientific sources “like novels,” and attend to their metaphors, narrative practices, and representational strategies, a perspective which has proven fruitful in the history of science. I show that enquiry into hypnotism fitted insecurely within scientific bounds—as defined by 1880s researchers and the tenets of positivism—on account of tensions in the ways researchers approached individual imaginative responses to phenomena. On the other side of the coin, literary and scientific knowledges interacted in reciprocal movements of contribution and disruption. Considered together, these two movements reveal an essential fluidity in the bounds of scientific hypnotism during its golden age.