Mary Chapman

Mary Chapman



I am a doctoral student supervised in the English and PRHS (History of Science) departments at Leeds. My thesis is funded by an AHRC WRoCAH doctoral studentship, and examines how literature shaped the development of gendered psycho-medical theory in the nineteenth century. It is interdisciplinary, combining literary studies and the history of psychiatry.

My research investigates theories of female madness in the Victorian period, exploring how gendered social ideologies contributed to their formation. I argue that beliefs about female insanity were formulated through a circulation of ideas between a medical and socio-cultural domain. This circulation was not linear, but instead an active and transformative process which functioned through a network of discourses. My thesis seeks to trace this circulation in just one of these discourses: nineteenth-century literature. It looks at how the materiality of different texts influenced the articulation of ideas of female madness- be that through genre, language, or the mode of their production within the literary marketplace. I have located a literary network of medical textbooks, periodical journalism, and women’s writing, through which theories of the female mind were developed. Through research into these different types of literature, I will explore how texts facilitated the slippage between cultural and scientific beliefs.

Other Research and Public Engagement Projects

  • Committee Chair, New Directions in Nineteenth-Century Periodical Studies, University of Leeds, 2019: I organised the New Directions in Nineteenth-Century Periodical Studies Conference, held at the University of Leeds on 19-20th September 2019. The conference focused on new developments within the field, with an emphasis on encouraging multidisciplinary methodologies, and communication between scholars at different career stages. For an overview of the event see:
  • Education Outreach Fellow for English, University of Leeds, 2018-2019: I held the position of EOF for English for two years, working with the Educational Engagement team at Leeds. My role was to design and deliver outreach projects for school children aged 12-18. These projects aimed to engage children with English at higher education, enriching their curriculum and promoting interest in university studies.
  • Curator, Jars of "Art and Mystery" Exhibition, Harvard Centre for the History of Medicine, 2018: During this internship I researched and curated a digital exhibition on the CHM's collection of apothecary jars. The exhibition places these jars in context, looking at the history of pharmacy from the 17th to 19th centuries, and is interactive. Jars of "Art and Mystery" can be viewed here:
  • Doctoral Assistant, Mind Boggling Medical History, University of Oxford, 2017-2018: I assisted with an AHRC funded project, developing a game that aims to teach users about medical beliefs, past and present. Mind Boggling Medical History is part of the larger project, Constructing Scientific Communities. Further information about the game can be found here:
  • Workshop Coordinator, Farnley Academy, Leeds, 2017: I designed a workshop on gender and critical thinking, which I delivered in a series of classes to Farnley students aged 13-16. The workshop engages students with historical concepts of femininity, and asks them to critically assess how women are portrayed today. I also set up an after-school "Crit Club" to introduce students to university level teaching styles in the humanities. The workshop is now available for roll-out in other institutions. If interested, please do not hesitate to contact me.
  • Research Assistant, Bethlem Archives and Museum, 2014: During this internship I researched and wrote a commissioned paper on visiting practices and entertainment at Bethlem Asylum in the late-Regency and early-Victorian period. I presented my findings at a public lecture, which I reprised in 2016.


  • ‘The Female Mind in the Periodical Press: Henry Maudsley's “Sex in Mind and in Education”’, Victorian Periodicals Review, 53:3 (2020), p.403-425: doi:10.1353/vpr.2020.0034.

Conference Papers

  • Returning to Amy Levy: Writerly Experiences of Melancholia in the Late Nineteenth Century, British Association of Victorian Studies Conference, 2019
  • 'Their Foreordained Work as Mothers and Nurses of Children': Henry Maudsley and the Cultural Adaptation of Late-Victorian Gendered Psycho-Medical Theory, North American Victorian Studies Association Conference, 2018
  • The Female Mind in the Periodical Press: Henry Maudsley's 'Sex in Mind and in Education' and the Sociological Application of Psycho-Medical Theory, The Leeds Library 250th Anniversary Conference, 2018 (I also participated on the organising committee for this conference)
  • The Case of the Madwoman: Deconstructing Gendered Theories about Female Mental Illness within Nineteenth-Century Psycho-Medical Writing, British Society for the History of Science Postgraduate Conference, 2017
  • The "Noble Institution for the Insane": Late-Regency and early-Victorian visiting practices at Bethlem, Fairfax House Georgian Studies Symposium, 2016


  • The Creative Essay (2020/21)
    School of English Undergraduate Level 1 Module 
  • Foundations of English Studies (2018/19)
    School of English Undergraduate Level 1 Module
  • Victorian Literature (cover only) (2017/18)
    School of English Undergraduate Level 2 Module

Blog Posts

    Constructing Scientific Communities: Citizen Science in the Nineteenth and Twenty-First Centuries, University of Oxford, 2016
    Diseases of Modern Life: Nineteenth Century Perspectives, University of Oxford, 2016


  • AHRC WRoCAH Doctoral Studentship, University of Leeds, 2016
  • Nineteenth-Century Studies Prize, King's College London, 2014 (awarded to the student with the highest cumulative score in the postgraduate programme)

Research interests

My research interests focus on the Victorian period, and include:

  • The mind sciences in Victorian literature
  • Gender and sexuality in the nineteenth century
  • Women writers, particularly from 1860-1900
  • Urban culture and literature


  • MA Nineteenth Century Studies, King's College London, 2014
  • BA English Language & Literature, King's College London, 2012