Interview with Sarah Levin '13
1. Tell us a bit about the general focus of your research. What questions did you initially set out to answer?
I have been researching medieval and early modern gynecological and obstetrical texts. I am looking specifically at the ways in which male physicians wrote about women and their bodies. In the works I have surveyed, I have come across a very clear tradition of misogyny and I am investigating how these attitudes towards women would have impacted everyday medical practice.
2. How did your interest in this topic develop?
After taking a number of classes with Professor Dallas Denery, I developed a keen interest in medieval and early modern intellectual history. The class that inspired my interest in the history of medicine, A History of the Body, focused on interpretations of the body in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. I took that course in the fall of 2010 and I have continued to research the history of gender, medicine, and natural science in various classes and independent projects throughout the rest of my time at Bowdoin.
3. What has it been like working closely with Professor Denery?
I have really enjoyed my work with Professor Denery over the last four years. His guidance and support has been invaluable, particularly while writing my Honors thesis. In taking classes with Professor Denery and in working with him on my honors project, I have gained a greater understanding of the field of history and a deeper appreciation of the research and writing processes. I have certainly grown more confident in my own work and I feel prepared to pursue a graduate degree in history.
4. What sorts of methods and sources have you utilized in researching your topic?
My research has mainly consisted of reading medical manuscripts that date from the fifth century BCE to the eighteenth century CE. I have really enjoyed analyzing the progression of medicine and medical theory and writing about the way it changed over time. I have been fortunate enough to receive fellowships from both the Surdna Foundation and the Langbein Family to conduct independent research at Bowdoin for two summers.
5. Do you have any advice for fellow students who are thinking about undertaking an independent research project?
My one piece of advice to students interested in conducting research is to find a topic that really excites you! An independent study or Honors project can be a daunting endeavor but researching a subject about which you are passionate makes everything easier and more enjoyable. Also, contact scholars in your field about their work and ask them questions about their research! It can be a bit intimidating at first, but they are often excited to know that students are reading what they've written.