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Ashleigh Blackwood



I received my first degree in English Literature and History in 2011, having developed a number of key interests including early modern and eighteenth-century studies, medical humanities and literature and the body. My undergraduate dissertation considered literary representations of the posthuman body in twentieth-century dystopian literature before progressing into postgraduate studies. I was awarded my Masters of Research in 2012 with a dissertation entitled '"To take up the pen for public perusal": Female Obstetric Authorship in the Enlightenment, 1671-1798', focusing on the development of women’s medical authorship on the print market throughout the long eighteenth century. A wide range of professional experience in both the education and healthcare sectors have been positive influences on my work. My doctoral research continues to pursue themes such as public literacy, medical pedagogy, women’s writing, poetry, the rise of the novel and the environment of the developing print market. I have contributed to public-facing exhibitions relating to eighteenth-century medicine and literature as a research consultant, as well as curating aspects of the display work. I have been particularly involved in events surrounding the tercentenary of Laurence Sterne’s birth and am part of a team of postgraduates and volunteer tracing the history of recently discovered minute books belonging to 'The Good Humour Club', a York-based society whose meetings advocated the benefits of merriment and sociability as part of a healthy lifestyle. I am also a convenor of the departmental staff and postgraduate '…in Theory' Reading Group. This year's group addresses the theme of 'Bodies in Theory'.


B.A. (Hons) English Literature and History with First Class Honours, Northumbria University

MRes English Literature with Distinction, Northumbria University


My research works alongside the current Leverhulme-funded project 'Fashionable Diseases' and explores aspects of reproductive medicine which appeared in eighteenth-century narratives.  Whilst literary pathographies of defined conditions throughout history have become increasingly visible within contemporary scholarship, this thesis aims to examine a number of related elements of reproductive and maternity care to investigate cultural as well as medical understandings of procreation between 1660 and 1832. I am currently investigating areas including links between women’s creative and procreative capacities within a literary context, the psychological processes of reproduction and the occurrence of melancholic conditions in maternal ill-health, male participation in childbirth, public knowledge of abortifacient substances and the role of technology in maternity care. In addition to these issues, I am also particularly interested in identifying elements of change and continuity which occurred within cultural perceptions of maternity care such as responses to gendered practice as male practitioners became increasingly involved in deliveries and obstetric surgery. The thesis itself is interdisciplinary by nature, using both medical and literary texts as well as employing both close reading and historical techniques such as genealogical and prosopological methods to contextualise my range of literary case studies. As I progress with my research, looking at the stories of individuals, groups and even whole populations, there are inevitably a few whose stories have stuck. Laurence Sterne, Jane Cave Winscom, Mary Eleanor Bowes and the elusive midwife Jane Sharp are among those whose biographies I continue to delve into as part of my reading. You can find out more about my work and research interest through my blog, Lit and Medicine.

Conference papers:

'"I with the child, I call my own": [Pro]Creative Experience in Eighteenth-Century Poetry', Bill Overton Memorial Conference, Loughborough University, September 2013.

'Sterne’s "little Gentleman": Tristram Shandy and the Male Participant in Childbirth', The Tercentenary Conference: Laurence Sterne 1713 – 2013, Royal Holloway University of London, July 2013.

'Esoteric Innovations: Scientific "Secrets" and Narrative Play in the Eighteenth-Century Print Market', British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies Postgraduate Conference, Northumbria University, July 2013.

'"The Dreadful Potion": Abortifacients and Pharmaceutical Advice in Eighteenth-Century Literature', Northumbria Humanities Postgraduate Seminar Series, Northumbria University, March 2013.

'Storytelling: The Narratology of Women’s Medical Writing', Reading Early Modern Conference, July 2012.

'A "Shandean Hypothesis": Transforming and Translating Professional Practice and Paternity in Obstetric Medicine', Transforming Objects Conference, Northumbria University, May 2012. Paper also given at Expanding Horizons: Initiatives in Diverse Research Postgraduate Conference, Northumbria University, May 2012.

'Dissecting Discourse: The Implications of Gendered Practice in Obstetric Writing', British Society for the History of Science Postgraduate Conference, Warwick University, January 2012.


Professor Clark Lawlor

Dr Gaby Mahlberg

Professor Allan Ingram

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