Katrina Longhurst

Postgraduate teaching assistant

Summary: Medical humanities; disability studies; life writing; mental illness; digital storytelling; contemporary literature

Teaching Commitments: Prose: Reading and Interpretation

BA (hons), MA, University of Leeds

Doctoral Research 

'Encountering Mental Illness: Critical Strategies of Difference in Contemporary Life Writing.'

My primary research interest is in contemporary autobiographical narrations of mental illness across different forms including memoirs, co-produced autobiography, blogs, and vlogs. My research investigates how writers with experience of mental illness turn the challenges of producing self-narrative under mental distress into strategic advantage through the creation of literarily innovative texts that explore the boundaries and (perceived) limits of personhood. It also reflects upon the consequences of these texts for further developing critical medical humanities methodologies. My thesis explores the limits of autobiography, how mental illness complicates narrative identity, and attitudes towards both medical and literary diagnosis expressed in texts. Throughout, I am interested in drawing equivalences between clinical and literary interactions with mental illness. As such, I examine the relationships between patient and practitioner, reader and writer, and the similarities between them in order to investigate the diagnostic role of the literary critic, and how writers might resist this gaze through a mode of counter-diagnosis. I draw upon a range of source material with a view to interrogating the textual, visual, and virtual platforms available to narratives of mental illness and how encounters of mental illness change across different media. In doing so I explore the critical strategies of difference available to writers narrating mental illness, and how the production of such a critical aesthetics work to express their experiences. 


2017-18, Semester 1, Prose: Reading and Interpretation 

2016-17, Semester 2, Poetry: Reading and Interpretation

Conference Papers

'Collaborative Telling and Interactive Memory in Contemporary Mental Health Life Writing.' (Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research Congress, Van Mildert College, Durham University, 14th-15th September 2017). 

‘Appropriation or Co-operation? The joint telling of mental illness in Lauren Slater’s Welcome to my Country.’ (Invited talk, Centre for History of Science, Technology, and Medicine, University of Manchester, May 2017).  

'Counter-diagnosis: Strategies of Difference in Contemporary American Mental Health Life Writing' (Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association Joint National Conference, San Diego, 2017). Funded by Leeds for Life, Faculty of Arts Grant Mobility Grant, and School of English Conference Grant. 

'Embracing and Resisting Diagnosis in Kay Redfield Jamison's An Unquiet Mind and Lauren Slater's Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir' (Postgraduate Medical Humanities Conference, University of Exeter, 2016). With funding from Wellcome Trust Travel Bursary and Society for the Social History of Medicine delegate bursary. 

'Contemporary Encounters of Mental Illness: Life Writing and Resistance' (Medical Imaginaries: Postcoloniality and Gender in the Medical Humanities, University of Bergen, Norway, 2016). Funded by the Nordic Network for Gender, Body, Health