Dr Martina Zimmermann
King's College London
Narratives of diseased brains and failing minds: Dementia in science, medicine and literature in the twentieth century.
The Wellcome Trust
This work seeks to identify the path taken by the presentation of dementia since 1900, and to chart where culturally the illness and its sufferers find themselves today. It will explore the cultural connotations of dementia, and look at how the literary presentation of the condition has been shaped by an evolving medico-scientific dementia discourse, since the condition was identified as a physical disease in 1907 and more recently as a cognitive disorder. A principal goal is to pinpoint the impact of medico-scientific conceptualisation of dementia as an organic disease upon the presentations of dementia in contemporary narratives by analysing medico-scientific texts in comparison to textual (non-)fictional narratives and visual presentations (films, picture/photo-books) of the condition. Secondly, by analysing narratives about the condition and other neurodegenerative diseases in connection with medico-scientific presentations, the project aims to delineate the impact of more recent scientific developments on the conceptualisation of brain diseases as cognitive conditions with related symbolic consequences for sufferers and carers. Thirdly, I analyse material from the lay and popular scientific press to identify the extent to which cultural dementia narratives feedback into the medico-scientific approach to the condition and how they impinge on individuals afflicted by neurodegeneration today.