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Modernity and the Gut Symposium
Kelvinhall, University of Glasgow
7-28 April, 2023

Modernity and the Gut Symposium

Keynote Speaker: Professor Jean Walton, University of Rhode Island


Concerns about gastric disorders have been around for centuries, but anxiety surrounding the gut intensified with the development of modernity. The rise of sedentary living and industrialised food processes deepened the chasm between what was perceived as a healthy gut and the status of people’s digestive systems. Often viewed as out of time with the frantic pace of urban working life, the gut has been characterised as a victim of modernity and yet the processes associated with it —consumption, absorption, disassembly, and waste— were closely allied to the project of modernism. Today’s scientists also note that the lifestyle changes caused by the agricultural and industrial revolutions have profoundly altered the ecological relationships and disease patterns of populations, notably the diversity of our gut bacteria. In this conference we explore the relationship between the digestive system and modernity including dedicated sessions on the gut and literary modernism. 

Symposium Programme

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Thursday April 27


Panel One

  • Maya Hey, ‘Thread Through: reframing (gut) health as ongoing, collective negotiation’ 

  • Megan MacGregor, ‘Modernity and the Microbiome: Dysbiosis and Biodiversity in Microbial ‘Omics’”

  • Sofia Sandalli, ‘Helpful or harmful? Understanding and harnessing microbial species of the human gut’ 

  • Sylvain Lallier ‘The Human Gut and Its Microbiomes: Investigate the Development of Research Infrastructures on Human, Animal and Plant Microbial Worlds in France’ 

  • Respondent: Adam Bencard

Panel Two

  • Genevieve Smart, ‘F. T. Marinetti and the Gutsy Act of Male Childbirth’ 

  • Marita Vyrgioti, ‘Digestive processes in the psychoanalytic imagination’

  • Naomi Wynter-Vincent, ‘Undigested Facts: The Intestinal Thinking of Wilfred Bion’

  • Respondent: Hannah Proctor


Keynote: Professor Jean Walton, University of Rhode Island

Friday April 28

Panel Three

  • Vanessa Höving ‘The Human Gut Condition. Contemporary Self-help Literature and Illness Narratives’ 

  • Deren Pulley ‘Letters to a Phantom Colon: Surgical Life through the Melancholic Gut’ 

  • Laura González, ‘Prana and the Gut’ 

  • Adam Bencard, ‘The World is in You – engaging and displaying contemporary metabolic research at the intersection of art, science and history’
  • Respondent: Ian Miller

Panel Four

  • Derek Ryan: ‘Before the Gut: James Joyce’s Ulysses and Oesophageal Modernism’

  • Christina Walter ‘Gut Modernism: Science, Food, Art’ 

  • Bee Sachsse ‘The Black Box Gut and Modern Resistance to Knowledge in Marie Ndiaye’s Mon coeur à l'étroit’ 

  • Respondent: Petere Adkins

Panel Five

  • Kelly Adamson ‘Are they content to shovel it into its grave and forget about it?’ State reactions to infant diarrhoea and enteritis and the ‘sick’ urban area in wartime Dublin, Ireland (1939-48).

  • Matthew Wolf-Meyer ‘The Origins of Unsympathetic Medicine’ 

  • Louise Morgan ‘Clean Eating, Curative Food and the Gut in Twenty-First Century Britain’

  • Respondent: Rhodri Hayward


'Living Together' Film Screening, curated by Kirsty Hendry

  • Maria Fernandez Pello, ‘Bodies and Places Are Contagious’ (2021)

  • Lucy Beech, ‘Warm Decembers’ (2022)

  • Roz Mortimer, ‘Wormcharmer’ (1998)

  • Jenna Sutela, ‘nimiia cétiï’ (2018)

  • Kirsty Hendry, ‘Navel Gazing’ (2020)

  • Kirsty Hendry and A+E Collective: Q&A + discussion

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