Lindsey Grubbs is a doctoral candidate and Woodruff fellow in the English department at Emory University, where she is also obtaining a certificate in bioethics. Her research interrogates the relationship between American literature and medicine from the late eighteenth century to the present time, and has been published in Literature & MedicineAmerican Journal of Bioethics: Neuroscience, and the Routledge Handbook of Neuroethics.

Her dissertation, Fictional Illnesses: The Poetics of Diagnosis in Nineteenth Century America, tracks the relationship between literary and medical attempts to narrate those conditions and symptoms that trouble the borderlands of diagnostic classification—gradations of madness, physical ailments lacking clear physiological origins, and all manner of brain and nerve disorders—from the 1780s to the 1880s. The project looks to “problem cases” of diagnosis—disorders on the margins of categorization in their own time—to ask foundational questions about how people and symptoms become subject to medical inquiry in the first place, and how diagnosis alters our ethical orientation toward the unwell subject. She argues that, in the absence of clinical markers, narrative becomes the primary epistemological resource for understanding symptoms. Thus, changes in literary style echo through medical philosophy (and vice versa), and so Lindsey’s project  interrogates the literary features of diagnosis and the diagnostic features of literature. These narratives, she argues, still shape our attitudes toward and understanding of “invisible” illnesses, from psychiatric disabilities to psychogenic disorders to poorly understood chronic illnesses.

Archival research for this project has been funded by grants from the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the Library Company of Philadelphia, and the Drexel University College of Medicine Legacy Center.

Lindsey holds a master’s degree in English and women’s studies from the University of Wyoming, and a bachelor’s degree, also from the University of Wyoming, in English with minors in Russian and creative writing.

She can be reached at lindsey.grubbs@emory.edu.