Friday 11th May 2012
Room 121, Lipman Building,
University of Northumbria
Today ‘hypochondria’ is defined as an ‘Abnormal anxiety concerning one’s health’. When we refer to a hypochondriac, we tend to use the term in a derogatory sense in that we mean a person who has an irrational fear of illness, or rather a person who imagines that they have an illness when there is no medical evidence to support their fears. The term is often used to describe attention-seeking individuals, and their irrational anxieties are popularly seen as a source of humour. However, looking back to the eighteenth century, we find Dr John Hill beginning his publication, Hypochondriasis: A Practical Treatise on the Nature and Cure of that Disorder Commonly called the Hyp and Hypo (1766), with the words: ‘To call the Hypochondriasis a fanciful complaint, is ignorant and cruel. It is a real, and a sad disease.’ The aim of this one-day workshop is to consider the origins and development of today’s hypochondria. Beginning in the eighteenth century, the workshop will consider the shifting meanings of the term, and its changing psychological and physiological symptoms, between the eighteenth century and the present. The day will open and close with discussion of the medical understanding and treatment of the condition, but we shall also be concerned with examples of both the actual experience of hypochondria and its literary representation and utilisation. A short original play, based on some of the figures under discussion, is included in the schedule.
For information about the programme, please download the Hypochondria workshop flyer. Entry is free and lunch will be provided.