Rachel Elder

Doctoral Candidate
Entered 2008
MA, University of Pennsylvania
MA, University of Warwick
BA, University of Guelph
Contact Information
Office Address: 
334 Cohen Hall
Email Address: 
Teaching Fields: 

History of Technology, History of Medicine, History of American Social Sciences, Disability Studies, 20th Century U.S. Gender and Sexuality

Research Interests: 

My current research approaches the elusive subject of epileptic seizures in the middle decades of the twentieth century.  In my dissertation, “Secrecy and Safety: A Cultural History of Seizures in America, 1930-1960,” I consider what losing control of one’s body meant in the context of rising expectations for conformity and containment.  The project explores themes of passing and invisible disability, shifting categories of social belonging, and varying permutations and techniques of personal and public safety.  Such queries have led me to debates about impaired driving, lightly chaperoned field trips, sex research on the physiology of female orgasm, the unusual history of brainwaves, and not least, the relationship between epilepsy, neurosurgery, and meditations upon the nature of human consciousness.

Before arriving at Penn, Rachel received a BA in History and English Literature from the University of Guelph and an MA in the Social History of Medicine from the University of Warwick.  She has completed exams in the fields of American Sciences, Technology and Culture, History of Medicine, and U.S. Gender and Sexuality. She maintains a fondness for the history of men in nursing and the melodrama of medical pulp fiction.  She is currently reading the Dr. Kildare series from start to finish.