Biography

Rachel A. Blumenthal (Ph.D., Northwestern University) specializes in American literature and the history of psychology. She teaches courses on captivity narratives, ethnic and minority American literatures, women’s literature, critical theory, revolutionary literature, and medical humanities.

She has been awarded fellowships by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Huntington Library, the Newberry Library, IU Kokomo, and the Chicago Humanities Festival. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Literature and Medicine, ESQ, Callaloo, and Arab Studies Quarterly.

Blumenthal's current book project, “Engendering Perception: Psychology, Narrative, and Sensorial Politics in Nineteenth-Century America,” argues that the nineteenth-century period commonly called the Age of Reform should in fact be called the Age of Ailment. She analyzes texts by writers who were diagnosed with mental illnesses to uncover a vital connection between literary form and the emerging nineteenth-century science of psychology. By replacing shorthand diagnostic classifications with long-form life narratives, American authors, she contends, overturn the epistemological, and gendered, structures of western medical practice. Whereas feminist scholars have done important work tracking madness in fiction, this project unearths reform-minded, even revolutionary, medical philosophies from the archive of literary nonfiction. She examines life writing, including what she calls hospital captivity narratives, as the archival alternative to physician-authored case studies. Each of the three sections of this book, Aesthesis, Sthenia, and Orexis, theorizes a sensorial epistemology, offering new perspectives on conventional nineteenth-century cognitive models of sensation, perception, and volition. This alternative taxonomy de-pathologizes sensorial epistemologies and disarticulates cognitive processes from the mandate for classically cohesive thought, engendering a new sensorium, and with it, newly legible narratives of previously unaccounted perceptive experience. 

Education and Academic Positions

Assistant Professor of English July 2014 to Present
Indiana University Kokomo | Kokomo, Indiana

Visiting Assistant Professor of English 2013-14
Northwestern University | Evanston, IL

Ph.D. English Advisors: Betsy Erkkilä (director), Julia Stern, Ivy Wilson May 2013
Northwestern University | Evanston, IL

M.A. English May 2008
Northwestern University | Evanston, IL

B.A. English & History (summa cum laude, honors, Phi Beta Kappa) May 2007
Vanderbilt University | Nashville, TN

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Editors of IU Kokomo's Field: A Journal of Arts & Sciences at work on the spring issue.

Photo Credit: Alisha Referda

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