Comparative Literature

Wellcome Trust funds conference on exhaustion

23 August 2013

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Head of Comparative Literature, Dr Anna Katharina Schaffner, has been awarded Wellcome Trust funding for a conference on ‘Exhaustion’, which will take place on Friday, 25 October, in the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge.

The conference explores different medical, psychiatric and psychoanalytic narratives on the origins of and cures for exhaustion. It analyses the ways in which exhaustion features as a main symptom in related diagnostic categories, such as depression, burnout, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and melancholia, neurasthenia and nervous weakness. It also explores the wider metaphorical allure of the term and its deployment in other discourses, in particular in the fields of literature, economics and ecology.

Experts from diverse disciplines will talk about the different forms exhaustion can take, and different ways of theorising its aetiologies and effects, including psychiatrists, psychologists, occupational health specialists, historians, sociologists, literary scholars and psychoanalysts. The keynote speaker is Sir Simon Wessely.

The full programme for the event has now been published:


9.15-9.30: Conference Registration

9.30-9.45: Dr Anna Katharina Schaffner (Senior Lecturer, Comparative Literature, University of Kent), Welcome

9.45-10.45: Professor Sir Simon Wessely (Professor of Psychological Medicine, Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London), ‘Exhaustion and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’

10.45-11.15: Dr Jenny Laws (Post-Doctoral Research Assistant, Department of Geography and Centre for Medical Humanities, University of Durham) 'Exhaustion, Energy and the Active Patient'

11.15-11.45: Coffee break

11.45-12.15: Chris Dooks (Artist, Documentary Film Maker, PhD Candidate at the School of Creative and Cultural Industries, University of the West of Scotland), 'The M.E.thodologies of the Fragmented Filmmaker'

12.15-12.45: Dr Julian Childs (Research Fellow, School of Psychology and Anna Freud Centre, University College London), '"Do You Want Me to Be Perfect?" Socially Prescribed Perfectionism, Stress and Burnout in the Workplace'

12.45-2.00: Lunch break

2.00-2.30: Professor Dr Wilmar Schaufeli (Professor of Work and Organisational Psychology, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Utrecht University),  'Are Exhaustion and Burnout Redundant Concepts?'

2.30-3.00: Greta Wagner (Research Fellow, Institute of Sociology, Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität Frankfurt), 'Exhaustion and the Competitive Society'

3.00-3.30: Dr Angela Woods (Lecturer in Medical Humanities, Centre for Medical Humanities, Durham University), 'Exhaustion and Depression'

3.30-4.00: Coffee break

4.00-4.30: Dr Felicity Callard (Senior Lecturer in Social Science for Medical Humanities, Centre for Medical Humanities, Durham University), 'The Brain "At Rest": When Rest is Far from Restful'

4.30-5.00 Dr Michael Greaney (Senior Lecturer in English, Department of English and Creative Writing, Lancaster University), 'Exhaustion and Modernist Literature'

5.30-6.00  Round table discussion

If you are interested in attending, please email as soon as possible, as places are limited.



Comparative Literature, School of European Culture and Languages, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NF

Enquiries: +44 (0)1227 827159 or email the department

Last Updated: 23/01/2014