University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > History of Modern Medicine and Biology > The machinery of authoritarian care: representing and experiencing breast cancer treatment in 1970s Britain

The machinery of authoritarian care: representing and experiencing breast cancer treatment in 1970s Britain

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Breast cancer narratives are standard media fare today, with newspapers, magazines, books, films, radio programmes, blogs, and even comic books telling and retelling the stories of women suffering from this disease. This development, however, is relatively recent, a creation of the last three decades. In this paper, I examine some of the earliest media portrayals – some true-to-life, some fictional – of British women being treated for breast cancer. Chief among these was the 1975 BBC television play Through the Night, which playwright Trevor Griffiths based on the diary his wife kept during her own hospital stay. This programme captured national attention by depicting a young mother’s experience with what one expert called ‘the machinery of authoritarian care’. Through the Night and the responses to it serve as my starting point for examining the emergence of the breast cancer narrative in Britain, and for analysing its forms, meanings and uses in 1970s and 1980s culture.

This talk is part of the History of Modern Medicine and Biology series.

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