The History and Culture of Disease and Healing Seminar Series | Fall 2017

Seminar 13Medicalizing Melancholia: the Noonday Demon from Antiquity to the Present

This is a FREE seminar hosted at The Health Museum (1515 Hermann Drive), part of a collaborative lecture series by UTHealth School of Public Health and Rice University.

Please note this is the last of 13 seminars in the Fall 2017 series.
Continuing Education (CME, CNE, CEUs) available.


Seminar 13 on 11/28/17: Medicalizing Melancholia: the Noonday Demon from Antiquity to the Present

This lecture presents the historical development of the medicalization of melancholia, from Plato's philosophical account of divine madness in the 4th century BCE to Kay Jamison's clinical and confessional account of manic-depressive disorder in the 21st century CE. Melancholia has been presented as demonized (in the medieval period), stigmatized (in the Enlightenment period), and pathologized (in the Victorian period). But throughout, this Noonday Demon (as it has been called) also bears associations with genius, artistry, and productivity. The construction of melancholia thus invites reflection on its productive as well as prohibitive characterizations. The narrative presents melancholia in five main stages, calling attention to how cultural perception shapes the evaluation of psychological and physiological symptoms that are largely consistent. This development suggests fascinating changes in the way the human person and mental illness have been understood, as well as the increasingly gendered nature of melancholy. Far from obsolete, these ideas continue to influence culture today, and our historical investigations will help expand our contemporary understanding of the human person and mental illness.

Target Audience
Medical humanities scholars, physicians, nurses, social workers, health science and public health students and other professionals in public health related disciplines, as well those interested from the general public.

Learning Objectives
At the end of this session, attendees will be able to (1) summarize a brief history of the treatment of depression (as melancholia), from antique philosophy to contemporary pharmacology, (2) critically analyze the construction and perception of mental illness as specific to cultural context (as well as neurobiological phenomena), and (3) apply this historically-informed understanding of modern stigma in clinical settings to provide better care to patients with mental health issues.

Presenting for this session is:

Niki Kasumi Clements, PhD, MTS, is the Watt & Lilly Jackson Assistant Professor of Religion at Rice University. With advanced degrees from Harvard and Brown Universities, she works at the disciplinary intersection between the history of Christianity and philosophy of religion, focusing on conceptions of the self and ethical formation. Clements' publications include Mental Religion: The Brain, Cognition, and Culture (Macmillan 2016), an edited volume on the study of religion in the cognitive and neurosciences. Her first monograph analyzes the pragmatic ethics of John Cassian (c.365-c.435), a late antique Catholic architect of Latin monasticism, largely maligned for his optimistic view of human agency. She is currently working on a monograph treating Michel Foucault's late work on ethics and his obsession with Christianity (and Cassian). Clements is a contributor to national policy affirming the civic necessity of the study of religion for K-12 education, and serves on the Faculty Advisory Board for the Boniuk Institute for Religious Tolerance.





Hosted in collaboration with:


Seminar Series Information

Welcome to Season Two: Poisons, Plagues, Potions and Portrayals
from 08/29/17 - 11/29/17 on Tuesdays at The Health Museum

The History and Culture of Disease and Healing
seminar series identifies the overlap between disciplines in health and humanities, and applies lessons in humanities to public health practice in a global and cross cultural context.

“There is increasing emphasis on bringing more of the humanities into the education of health professionals, in a way that is appealing to all the health disciplines. This course seeks to do just that,” says George Delclos, MD, MPH, PhD, professor at the UTHealth School of Public Health and one of the course instructors.

There are 13 seminars in this series. Each unique seminar has been chosen for its relevance to the contributions of the humanities to contemporary understanding or approaches to disease and healing as we conceptualize from cultural/artistic/literary depictions and historical lessons the relationship between human behaviors and disease and healing.

This is also a humanities course offered to professionals and students in the fields of medicine and health. Seminar attendance will include registered students from Rice University and the UTHealth School of Public Health. The unique collaborative format of this seminar demonstrates shared values between institutions of higher learning and the professional/academic training offered to specialties.

Time & Location

Seminar Date & Time:
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
5:30pm - 7:00 pm

Seminar Location:
The Health Museum, inside the McGovern Theater
1515 Hermann Dr.
Houston, TX 77004

Click here for directions

Continuing Education

Continuing Education credits can be provided for contact hours and certificates of attendance at no cost for attending individual or multiple seminars.
Online registration, full 90 minute seminar attendance, and completion of post-seminar electronic evaluations
are required for attaining contact hours and certificates.

Individual seminar attendance allowed—you are NOT required to attend the entire series.

  • Continuing Medical Education (CME): Determination of credit is pending.


  • Continuing Nursing Education (CNE): Determination of credit is pending.


  • Social Work Continuing Education Units (CEUs): Determination of credit is pending.


  • Certificate of Attendance can be provided for all other public health professionals and attendees by request during online registration process.


Your Best Reponse to a Changing World!

The Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (SWCOEH) supports research, education and outreach in occupational and environmental health. The SWCOEH is housed within the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences of the UTHealth School of Public Health and is under the leadership of Elaine Symanski, PhD who serves as Director.

The SWCOEH was established in 1977 as a NIOSH-funded Education and Research Center (ERC), now one of 18 ERCs in the nation. In 1985, the SWCOEH became a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Occupational Health.

The mission of the SWCOEH Continuing Education (CE) Program is to serve as a training resource for professionals and decision-makers in the occupational and environmental health fields by delivering specialized courses in response to current training needs. Our ultimate goal is to improve occupational and environmental health. Our core subject areas are occupational medicine, industrial hygiene, occupational safety, hazardous substances and materials and occupational health nursing. Contact us to discuss your training needs!

Contact Us

Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health
Continuing Education (CE) & Outreach Program

1200 Pressler St., RAS West, Ste. 1038
Houston, TX 77030

Michelle McDaniel - Continuing Education Coordinator (Mon-Fri)
Phone: 713-500-9447

Brenda Brown - Program
Coordinator (Tu-Th)
Phone: 713-500-9448

General CE Email:

To learn more about the SWCOEH, please visit us on the web at

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