Centre for Dementia Seminar Series 2017
Speaker: Professor Lynda Pratt (University of Nottingham)
Abstract: The impact of dementia upon individual authors is of increasing interest. Concordance software has, for example, been used to chart linguistic changes between Iris Murdoch's early and late-career works. Lynda will use her research on the Collected Letters of Robert Southey to explore an earlier case and offer a different approach.
Poet, essayist, historian, travel-writer, biographer, translator and polemicist, Southey was a dominant and controversial cultural figure from the 1790s to the 1830s. In his mid-late 60s Southey began to suffer from increasing memory loss, confusion, indecisiveness, slower and less steady movement, depression, tiredness and disinclination to write and speak.
Southey's letters offer a potential way of tracking the onset of his illness. Letterswere, for him, a key means of keeping regularly in touch with family and friends.
Lynda will focus on the handwritten manuscripts of Southey's letters. She will lookat their physical features, particularly Southey's hand and his positioning of the letter text on the page. She will ask if these might – or might not – provide information about his state of health. By so doing, she will consider the usefulness of archival sources in exploring the onset and impact of dementia.