Yesterday, our own Adam Bencard defended his Ph.D.-thesis — ‘History in the Flesh: Investigating the historicized body’; for a resumé, see here — in the old anatomical theatre of Medical Museion.

Adam started with a 40 min long presentation about the basic idea of the thesis — that the notion of ‘presence’ (Gumbrecht, Runia) might be a way out of the impasse into which the linguistic turn, cultural history and especially New Historicism has led the historiography of the body:

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Then Roger Cooter (historian of medicine at Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, UCL) started the opposition, praising Adams’ erudition but also asking some difficult questions about the historical situatedness of this kind of historiographical intervention:

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followed by literary scholar Knut Stene-Johansen (University of Oslo) who, among other things, went into the poetic qualities of the thesis:

 

and finally Dorthe Gert Simonsen (historian at the University of Copenhagen and chair of the committee), who questioned some aspects of the basic structure of the work:

 

(I hope to be able to get back with more details about what the three opponents said.) Needless to say, Adam passed with flying colours after two hours of intense dialogue. 

By the way (and apropos the topic of the thesis): as the discussion proceeded, it seemed to me that Adam’s body language shifted from cautionary to engaged,

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thereby adding an extra layer of presence-effects to the meaning culture that otherwise use to dominate these kinds of academic rituals.

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