'Institutional Narratives; Human Narratives' Symposium

Venue: Building 502, Room FLEX-1 [G17]

Date: Wednesday, 24/04/2024

Time: 14:00-17:00

All welcome. Snacks and drinks will be provided.

Organized and Chaired by Dr Laura Blunsden


  • Dr Neil Armstrong, 'Bullshit, expediency and strategic authenticity: telling stories about going mad'

Neil is a medical anthropologist with a particular interest in lived experience (his own and other people's), mental healthcare organisations, co-production and interdisciplinary working. He recently published the book 'Collaborative Ethnographic working in Mental Health: Knowledge, Power and Hope in an Age of Bureaucratic Accountability' (Routledge). He is a Research Associate at KCL and a Fellow of Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford


  • Professor Emma Mason, 'Mystical experience in the University, or how to read Dorothy Wordsworth'

Emma is a Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick where she researches and teaches Romantic and Victorian poetry and Christianity and literature. She is particularly interested in Christian experience, mysticism, and contemplation and how literature enables people to share their feelings and thoughts about them. Her publications and teaching in these areas are listed on this website: http://go.warwick.ac.uk/emmamason

  • Dr Jon Roberts, 'Strange seas of thought'

Jon is a lecturer in the English Department at the University of Liverpool.



Institutional narratives—financial, theoretical, taxonomical, pedagogical, diagnostic—are objective, abstract and functional.  Human narratives—autobiographical, confessional, poetic, fictional—are subjective, experiential, often sensual, and embodied.  Human narratives are the subject of disciplines from the humanities themselves to the human-facing sciences such as psychiatry.   Yet the stories those disciplines then tell of these human testimonies, are often institutional narratives.  Academic life involves encountering and negotiating both kinds of narrative.  Living and working in these institutions we come in and out of these narratives; listening to them, retelling them, we may find or lose ourselves in them.

Our speakers come from a range of perspectives on this negotiation: literary studies, psychotherapy, anthropology, and psychiatry.  They have worked in, and on, and with institutions of many kinds, both modern and historical: the reading group, the prison, the asylum, the church, the consulting room, the classroom, the psychiatric ward, the department of English.  Each speaker will discuss the human origins of their field of interest, how engagement in that field took them ever deeper into a world of abstraction, the impact of this experience, and how they have sought to reconnect with those human origins.