Rachel A. Blumenthal
Rachel A. Blumenthal (Ph.D., Northwestern University) is Assistant Professor of English at Indiana University Kokomo (IUK) specializing in American literature and the history of psychology. She teaches courses on captivity narratives, ethnic and minority American literatures, women’s literature, critical theory, revolutionary literature, and the medical humanities.
She has been awarded fellowships by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Huntington Library, the Newberry Library, IU Kokomo, and the Chicago Humanities Festival. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Literature and Medicine, ESQ, Callaloo, and Arab Studies Quarterly.
Blumenthal’s current book project, “Pathographies: Affect, Narrative, and Pathology in Nineteenth-Century America,” reads an understudied archive of hospital captivity narratives to understand the proliferation of diagnostic categories in the nineteenth century aiming to account for strange affective experiences. She develops pathographia as a critical term to describe a medico-literary practice that ratifies, at the intersection of life writing and asylum narrative, the symptomatological subject as an author of neurological reality. Toward this end, her book moves from aesthesis (sensation) to sthenia (susceptibility) to orexis (desire), theorizing the narrativity of affective life beyond popular nineteenth-century cognitive models of sensation, perception, and volition. Indeed, the alternative taxonomies her book suggests de-pathologize incongruous cognitive processes and disarticulate them from the mandate for classically cohesive thought, engendering a new sensorium, and with it, newly legible narratives of previously unaccounted perceptive experience.