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In a small room in a Wiltshire manor house, etched into the window that served as her prison are the poignant words “Remember Ann Beach”. The young woman who had been locked in this space was erased from the narrative of her own life, removed from the archival record as efficiently as she was cast out of her family. All that remains of her is a name scratched in a window, a single lock of hair, a rather childish and unflattering drawing and two monument stones; but her love affair, disinheritance, illness and death were a battleground between two families who sought control over her history, utilizing her life and death to make and break reputations. The only surviving narrative is not Ann’s but instead her husband William Wainhouse’s. Rather than a retelling of the illness of death of a beloved spouse, this unusual narrative is a carefully crafted piece of rhetoric that utilizes popular understandings of disease to cast blame. Complex social ideas are an important component of any illness narrative, however this narrative, which was circulated in manuscript form, provides a unique opportunity to interrogate an aspect of the disease experience often neglected ─ the use of illness. This accounting is steeped in gender and family dynamics, and also demonstrates a social role for the illness narrative as a vehicle for recovering a life lost, and restoring a damaged reputation, as such it offers an opportunity to unpack the wider cultural meanings and uses of disease in the eighteenth century.


NB this seminar will begin at the slightly later than usual time of 17:30.



All welcome- but booking is required.