Emilie's research broadly considers the creation and public understanding of scientific knowledge from an interdisciplinary, historical perspective. Her work on the Diseases of Modern Life project asks, in a nutshell, "what did gut health mean to the Victorians and why should we care?"
By investigating the various forms and meanings of gastric ill-health throughout the nineteenth century, Emilie seeks to trace the antecedents to our current medical and cultural moment when new studies are daily encouraging us to pay more attention to our intestinal flora and fauna. Microbiome studies - the study of the microorganisms that live in our guts - is steadily revealing the significant relationships between diet, gut bacteria, and a host of other health factors like immunity to pathogens, weight gain, susceptibility to anxiety and depression, IBS, and even the efficacy of cancer treatments. This radically reorients our understandings of how the body operates, not as a clean space free from bacteria, but as a cooperative ecosystem that relies on symbiosis with microorganisms.
Emilie's book Possessing Our Own Bodies: Gut Health and Victorian Culture resituates digestive health in the multiplex context of the Pre-Pasteurian epoch. Whilst the gut has always been central to our understandings of mental and physical health, it gained new currency in the nineteenth century amid new understandings of physiology instigated by the emergence of experimental medicine; and new approaches to food in the wake of the development of gastric chemistry and the science of nutrition. Such developments were coexistent with a resurgent interest in gastronomy amidst ‘crises’ in English cookery, a renewed focus on dining and household management to accommodate an emerging middle class, and concern about the perceived damaging impact of industrial and commercial modernity on the digesting body. How might nineteenth-century perspectives on diet, digestion and bodily identity modify our understanding of what it means to be healthy in the twenty-first?
Emilie is also developing her PhD research into her first monograph Empire Under the Microscope: Parasitology and the British Literary Imagination, 1885-1935, which is forthcoming with Palgrave's Literature, Science, and Medicine series.
On Thursday 16 March 2017, Dr Emilie Taylor-Brown gave a talk with Dr Jamie Lorimer (School of Geography and the Environment) and Dr Nicola Fawcett (Medical Sciences Division) on the subject of Germs Revisited.