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Home > Research > Projects > Cultural Crisis of Modernity
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Cultural Crisis of Modernity

Project: Non-funded ProjectProjects

1/01/06 → …

Dr Tim Hickman's research is concerned with the cultural and intellectual history of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era. He is engaged in an investigation of the concept of 'modernity,' and particularly in its textual enunciation as 'cultural crisis.' He has recently completed the first phase of this study, which is an examination of the addiction concept of habitual narcotic use within the rapidly changing, turn-of-the-century technological environment. His next project will look more broadly at the period's cultural production, examining the way that a sense of cultural crisis resonated differently within the written and visual texts produced by various groups and individuals, divided by race, class and gender difference. This study is a historical investigation that also hopes to theorise differing, contested notions of modernity as both a temporal and a spatial concept.

He is also working on an intellectual/cultural biography of the period's most famous addiction cure doctor, Leslie E. Keeley, whose 'gold cure' earned millions of dollars in the notoriously unstable late-nineteenth-century economy. Most scholars who have considered Keeley affirm the verdict of elite, professional medicine and dismiss him as a quack. This, of course, he was, but only if we accept uncritically the status of the biomedical professionals who came to dominate the practice and distribution of medical care in the first years of the twentieth century. Keeley, however, lived during a time of profound transition when none of the medical, scientific and intellectual orthodoxies by which he is today judged were in place. He experienced more intensely than most the greatest set of changes in the history of US medical practice and provision. At the same time, his advertising and publishing made the most of the period's expanding popular press, and he even extended his business abroad, with clinics in Britain and Australia. Understanding Keeley's prolific, sentimental writing within this unstable historical context may not quite absolve him of quackery, but it nuances the story in ways that illuminate the period's shifting intellectual culture. It also helps us to reconcile the textual mediation of individual human experience with sweeping historical change.

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