English and Scottish Literature

Dissecting Edinburgh

This series of events highlights the relationship between Edinburgh's literary and medical history, and is the product of an AHRC-funded collaboration between the Surgeons’ Hall Museum and the Department of English Literature.

About the project

Anatomy of the brain

The idea behind Dissecting Edinburgh stemmed from the city’s identity as a city of literature - both historically and, now, officially - and its remarkable legacy as the site of some of the United Kingdom’s most influential developments in the history of medicine. The project looks in detail at the way in which these two identities overlap, exploring the range of ways in which Scottish writers have been influenced and inspired by the city’s physicians, surgeons, and nurses. Through a series of public readings and lectures, and a weekly guided tour of the Surgeons’ Hall museum, Dissecting Edinburgh introduces a new perspective on the history of medicine that unfolded in the Scottish capital.

These events explore the importance of a relationship between the literary and the medical, and consider how this kinship continues to shape attitudes towards health and healthcare. Looking at the way in which illness, surgery, and medical progress have been depicted in the fiction, poetry, and drama of Edinburgh’s writers, Dissecting Edinburgh also reveals how this mutual influence effects the next generation of doctors, writers, and scholars working and training in Edinburgh today.

Guided tours

The project will be running a series of tours, running every friday from the 15th of February to the 10th of May. The tours will focus on tracing the city’s contributions to the evolution of medicine through Scottish literature.

More information on the content of the tours can be found on the project's website:

Public readings

These public readings offer an intimate glimpse into the bond between Edinburgh’s literary and and its medical circles. Each event features readings from some of the city’s most iconic writers, and those who were inspired by their encounters with medicine here.

The titles and dates for the readings can be found below, with more information on the topics and speakers to be found on the Dissecting Edinburgh website:

14 February, 6-8pm - The Shadow of Syphilis in Literature and Medicine

07 March, 6-8pm - Medical Women: License to Practise

28 March, 6-8pm - Bodies Inside and Out

18 April, 6-8pm - Body Snatchers, Sack-em-up Boys, and Resurrection Men

02 May, 6-8pm - Writing Medicine in the City of Literature

16 May, 6-8pm - Dissecting Edinburgh: Literature and Medicine in the Scottish Capital

(Title image courtesy of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh)