Research Student Seminar: Dr Anna Katharina Schaffner

The next Research Student Seminar is on Monday 6 June, Dreyfus Room 6-8pm.

We are delighted to welcome Dr Anna Katharina Schaffner, Reader in Comparative Literature and Medical Humanities and Head of the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Kent. She will be speaking on ‘Exhaustion: a very short history’. Her monograph Exhaustion: A History will be published by Columbia University Press in June 2016.

 “The specter of exhaustion appears to dominate our age. A particularly virulent form of cultural pessimism is evident in debates on the future of politics and the sustainability of both our economic and our ecological systems. Depression (which counts physical and mental exhaustion among its core symptoms), Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), and burnout are now frequently diagnosed ailments. Depression affects more than 1 in 10 people in the Western world at some period in their lives; seventeen million people suffer from CFS worldwide; and burnout is one of the three most commonly diagnosed complaints in the workplace. But is exhaustion really the bane of our age, a phenomenon intimately bound up with modernity and its discontents, or have other historical periods also seen themselves as the most exhausted? This paper explores parallels and differences between past and present medical, theological, and psychological discourses on exhaustion, paying particular attention to the ways in which theories of exhaustion tend to be combined with critiques of modernity.”

The Research Student Seminar is a student-led seminar, convened this year by Guy Beckett and Steffan Blayney. It provides a forum for research students in the History department to meet and question leading historians and thinkers.

The seminars run every fortnight on Monday evenings. For the full programme, visit:

The seminar’s format is flexible and determined by the guest speaker, but it usually consists of a paper/presentation, followed by an hour for questions/discussion. Afterwards we take the speaker to a nearby restaurant for dinner, where discussion continues more informally. It is very helpful to have numbers for the meal so please email Guy by mid-day on the day of the seminar if you would like to join us.

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