The Art of Medicine in Iberian and Latin American Literature and Film

full name / name of organization: 
University of Kent at Canterbury, United Kingdom

This conference, co-organised by Comparative Literature (Dr Patricia Novillo-Corvalán) and Hispanic Studies (Dr William Rowlandson) at the University of Kent, and sponsored by the Wellcome Trust, will offer the unique opportunity to anatomise a new interdisciplinary area of research across Iberian and Latin American art, literature, and film.
The recent development of a discipline of Medical Humanities has led to the creation of an interdisciplinary site able to defy academic compartmentalisation and to foster productive in-between spaces across the sciences and the humanities. Medical practitioners are valiantly trespassing the science divide to enter an alluring arts/literature territory, whilst humanities scholars have become increasingly aware of the cultural/medical contexts which inform an array of literary works. It appears that equal rights to the human body have been claimed by both physicians within the sanitised environment of the laboratory and the hospital, and by the literary scholar eager to strip, dissect, and anatomise the body on the bare page. This interest in the art of healing runs through the bloodstream and the psyche of Iberian and Latin American literature and film.
How have Hispanic and Lusophone writers reflected on the personal, social, and cultural effects of illness? In his 1980 lecture 'Blindness' Borges constructed his own illness narrative by reflecting on his condition as a blind poet and traced a genealogy of blindness in Western literature from Homer to Milton, Joyce and Groussac. Nobel Laureates Saramago, García Márquez, and Vargas Llosa have in various ways depicted cases of physiological and psychological illness in their writings, most notably in their novels Blindness (1995), Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), and The Way to Paradise (2003). Similarly, the asthma suffered by the protagonist of Lezama Lima's novel Paradiso (1966) becomes a central feature of his poetic growth. Fresh scholarly studies have demonstrated that during the composition of 'Funes the Memorious', Borges may well have modelled the abnormal mnemonic behaviour of Funes on the real life cases of hypermnesia reported in William James's Principles of Psychology (1890). Other recent studies have drawn attention to the fact that Bolaño's lecture: 'Literature + Illness = Illness' may also be approached from the medico-literary genre of the illness narrative. In addition, works of Bolaño and Cortázar deal with characters drawn from the world of medicine, such as physicians, magical healers, nurses, and patients. In her seminal study Reconstructing Illness (1993) Anne Hunsaker Hawkins argues that the genre of the illness narrative or pathography is 'a form of autobiography or biography that describes personal experiences of illness, treatment, and sometimes death'.

Possible topics include but are not limited to:

Illness narratives
The doctor, nurse, and patient in art, literature, and film
Magical healing, shamanismo, curanderismo
Writing and the body
Fictions in the hospital/mental asylum
Medicine, conflict, and trauma
Madness and creativity
Illness and creativity
Disability studies
Women, childbirth, menstruation
Anorexia and obesity
Illness as metaphor
The art of dying

Please send paper proposals in English of 200 words by Tuesday 3rd May, 2011 to:
Dr Patricia Novillo-Corvalán
and Dr William Rowlandson
A selection of papers presented at the conference will be published