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Dr Chris Heginbotham

Former Research Student

Chris Heginbotham

Research overview

My research interests are in psychoanalytic explorations of 12th century arts and letters with a particular focus on the role of fathers and fatherhood in the monastic culture of the early 1100s.

Career Details

After a long career in the NHS and social care, I am now semi-retired, my last post being a chair in Mental Health Policy and Management at UCLan. My interests include mental health and mental capacity, health resource allocation and priority setting, values based practice in health and social care, and commissioning of health and wellbeing. I have an interest in the philosophy of psychoanalysis and in history, especially medieval history, notably 11th and 12th centuries. I hold a Visiting Chair at University of Cumbria and an Honorary Professorship in the Institute of Clinical Education (ICE) in the Medical School, Warwick University. I am a Non-Executive Director of Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, and a Board Member and Senior Advisor of the Global Health Equity Foundation,Geneva.

Business and Enterprise

I am a Director of two companies: Values Based Commissioniong Ltd. (VBC), and the Institute of Social Commissioning Ltd. (ISC), both of which specialise in social enterprise and social value through values-based social commissioning of health and social care. ISC runs thinknorth, a thinktank that aims to be 'the voice of the north in the south'.

Contact me

Contact details: chrisheginbotham@btinternet.com; 07768 488444

Thesis Outline

PhD thesis: Using psychoanalytic theory to explore the role of fathers and fatherhood in the monastic culture of early 12th century arts and letters.
The research draws on two incommensurate disciplines: documentary history of the 12th century, and psychoanalytic theory of the 20th century. A number of protagonists are engaged. Peter Abelard was on the edge of scholasticism and the ‘new’ Aristotelianism, but was profoundly important in explicating without understanding the importance of his philosophical discoveries. But it was not Abelard alone. Abelard’s affair with Heloise was remarkably modern, his castration as metaphorical as it was real; St Bernard played father to Abelard, 20 years his senior, and a woman, Heloise, of his own status and age. as well as many monks; Guibert de Nogent wrote a highly repressed auto-biographical tract; and other authors of religious exegesis and philosophical speculation peopled the period from around 1100 to 1140.
Maimonides, a contemporary of Abelard, has been considered by some a forerunner of Freudian analysis; the twin tracks of Jewish Maimonides/Freud and catholic Abelard/Lacan will describe a mysterious but unidentified competitive context. This parallel will be explored in a comparative analysis of Freudian and Lacanian positions.
Use of psychoanalytic theory will be predicated largely though not entirely on Lacan as a ‘disciple’ of Freud; on Lacan’s ‘return to Freud’, and his assertion that the unconscious is ‘structured like a language.’ Abelard, for example, and Lacan are indirectly linked through two specific aspects both of 12th century life and 20th century theory: the Oedipus myth as it describes the way the maternal and paternal roles are fulfilled, especially the Name-of-the-Father, the always uncertain possessor of the phallus; and the relevance of universals in the philosophy of Abelard and in the language games of Lacan. Autobiographical and psychological examination of the important players of the period form the backdrop to the research, which will analyse in depth a number of key writings of those players and reflect on the wider culture and significance of the 12th century for the 21st century.
A further research topic will seek to understand the significance of women’s role in the socio-cultural and monastic nexus of the early 12th century. This begs many questions:  the discriminatory attitudes and male dominated society do not do justice to the bisexual male beliefs of male-female and man-woman that denied women any psychological habitation. And yet those women had place in the trinity of man-woman-God. In the cloister, monks and churchmen sought to take the positions of men and women, but denied themselves both, which makes fertile ground for psychoanlaytic discovery.