Illness, Contagion, and Medical Discourse in Nineteenth-Century German Culture
German Studies Association
Kansas City, MO
18–21 September 2014
The long nineteenth century was a period that saw a series of fundamental shifts in the understanding of the causes, spread, and treatment of disease. From post-French Revolution models of health stressing the maintenance of an equilibrium between the body and its environment, to the development of miasma theories as a response to the cholera epidemics of the 1830s and 40s, to the discovery of germ theory in the latter half of the century, this constantly evolving medical discourse had an undeniable impact on the social, cultural, and literary landscape of the era. This panel invites papers dealing with literary representations of illness, disease contagion, and medical discourses in the long nineteenth century. Paper topics might include (but are not limited to):
- How do representations of disease and/or medical discourse affect conceptions and constructions of modernity and modern selfhood?
- Illness as metaphor—literary portrayals of illness as cultural, societal, and political critique
- Disease contagion- in what ways do texts dealing with illness engage in strategies of containment, contamination, inoculation, or infection, both on the level of narration and between author and reader?
- The nature of the doctor/patient relationship or the figure of the doctor in 19th century literature
- Romantic representations of disease—sickness as an indicator of genius and/or a heightened sense of feeling, creativity
- Illness and gender—what effect does the gender of the infected individual have on the narrative portrayal of disease?
- How does the genre of the work in question affect its representation of sickness?
- Social stigmas of disease—in what ways do representations of illness contribute to and/or dismantle the stigmatization or feelings of shame associated with sickness?
- Rural and urban illness—how do texts illustrate the tension between urban and rural experiences of disease, particularly in the wake of the Industrial Revolution?
Please submit a brief abstract (250 words) by January 31, 2014 to Elizabeth Schreiber-Byers at firstname.lastname@example.org
Presenters must be members of the German Studies Association. Information on membership is available on the GSA website in the Member Services Section: