Joseph Wood

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Twitter - @JoeCSMH


Research Summary

My project examines the conceptual background to the idea of 'total pain' used by the hospice pioneer Cicely Saunders.

Using Saunders own published papers and private notes and correspondence alongside the literary, philosophical and theological texts which informed her work, I am investigating the theoretical heritage and legacy of a term that is often described as a touchstone concept in palliative and end-of-life care but is rarely the focus of research.

Using perspectives from medical humanities, narrative medicine and philosophies of care, I hope to assess how far 'total pain' can be understood as a narrative concept and its relation to issues of holism, non-verbal communication, and silence.

My research is supported by an Arts and Humanities Research Council Studentship through the Scottish Graduate School of Arts and Humanities.



  • University of Glasgow College of Arts, Collaborative Research Award for ‘Public Health, Private Illness’ ECR Medical Humanities Conference, April 2020 - £1000

  • British Society for Literature and Science Small Grants Scheme for ‘Public Health, Private Illness’ ECR Medical Humanities Conference, April 2020 - £400

  • College of Arts PGR Community Building Fund: PGR Medical Humanities Networking Event July 2018 - £150


as participant

  • ‘New Directions in End of Life Studies’ (with Nicole Baur and Marian Krawczyk), Glasgow Medical Humanities Day, University of Glasgow, 17 April 2018
  • ‘Cicely Saunders and "Total Pain": Narrative and Silence’, SGSAH Research Relay, Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities, 28-29 August 2018
  • ‘The origins of "total pain" as a means of witnessing the collective trauma of the twentieth century’, 'Witnessing at the End of Life Postgrauate Workshop', University of Glasgow - Dumfries Campus, 29-30 June 2018
  • ‘Cicely Saunders and "Total Pain": Narrative and Silence’, SGSAH Research Relay, Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities, 27-28 August 2018
  • ‘The Problem of Narrative in End of Life Studies’, Glasgow Medical Humanities Network Symposium, University of Glasgow, 15 May 2019
  • ‘"All of Me is Wrong": Narrating Pain at the End of Life’, SGSAH Summer Symposium, Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities, 18-19 June 2019
  • ‘Cicely Saunders and Emotional Evidence at the End of Life’, 'Health, Care and the Emotions', University of Roehampton, 3-5 September 2019

  • ‘Cicely Saunders and the Heritage of "Total Pain"’, 'European Cultures of Palliative Care', Villa Hatt, ETHZürich, 25-26 October 2019

  • ‘Cicely Saunders and "Total Pain": Narrative, Fragment, Image’, 'Public Health, Private Illness', University of Glasgow, 2-4 September 2020

as co-organiser

  • 'Public Health, Private Illness', ECR Medical Humanities Conference, University of Glasgow and online, 2-4 September 2020

public engagement

  • ‘Cicely Saunders and "Total Pain"’, End of Life Studies 'Open Talk', Dumfries, 22 April 2018
  • ‘Autumn of Life’, a session reading and analysing poems on old age, Mellow Fruitfulness Festival, Dalswinton, 21 September 2018
  • facilitator at ‘Reading and Writing Death and Dying Symposium’ for object handling session with staff from Glasgow Life, St Mungo's Museum of Religious Life and Art, Glasgow, 14 May 2019
  • expert 'Guide' at interactive exhibition on death and dying 'The Departure Lounge, The Academy of Medical Science/The Liminal Space, Lewisham Shopping Centre, 25-26 May 2019
  • ‘Total Pain: Cicely Saunders and the History of Emotions’, Royal College of Nurses, London and online, 23 July 2020, available to view here


I have been Tutor on Society & Social Policy (DUMF1066) and 1A: Poetry and Poetics (1011)

Additional Information