Writing Scripts: Investigations in the Medical & Health Humanities

deadline for submissions: 
January 21, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
UMass English Graduate Organization

“I think our ligands are stories.” - Rita Charon

In the face of complex academic, social, and political issues emerging in the 21st century, humanities
scholarship has embraced interdisciplinarity as a means of addressing such issues. One field which has
emerged from this is the “Medical and Health Humanities,” a wide-ranging body of critical thought that
examines the intersection of various forms of healthcare and medicine with human and animal interests
and engages with theoretical, pedagogical, professional, and therapeutic inquiries.

Scholars in the medical humanities have attended to the power of language, “the word,” and narrative in
ways that have great implications for professional environments, human relationships, and pedagogical
practice. The medical humanities investigates how writing, narrative, and reflection work to heal or
humanize subjects and build empathetic relationships across communities, both patient/doctor and
student/teacher alike. Applying these goals to pedagogy re-figures our notions of teacher-student
relationships, the writing process, and our curricular content.

Because the field is broad, it both lends itself to and demands a wide variety of approaches, and we
welcome work which engages with rhetorical, literary, pedagogical, feminist, postcolonial, Marxist, and
other critical frameworks in attempting to understand these issues. For example, the medical and
humanities contributes to scholarship surrounding the body by uncovering ways in which the body is
constructed by health and medical discourses, both professional and informal, while also interrogating the
personal and political consequences of those constructions. At times, they are employed to reinforce
systems of subjugation; at others, they are used--as in various art therapies, or by grassroots citizenscientists--
to reclaim political power and facilitate healing and justice.

For our 10th annual graduate conference, The English Graduate Organization of the University of
Massachusetts Amherst invites submissions which engage with and contribute to the growing medical and
health humanities. A typical submission might (but need not) address questions such as:

  • How do health and medical inquiries inform composition and/or classroom pedagogy?
  • Conversely, what do composition and/or pedagogical methodologies have to offer healthcare, medicine, and patients?
  • How does memory work inform composition studies and/or classroom pedagogy?
  • How does the written word and/or language interact with disease, illness, and healthcare? With medical-professional concerns?
  • What is the relationship between trauma, language, narrative, and composition?
  • How have literary and/or cultural texts represented or addressed questions of health, illness, injury, and death?
  • How do medical or health-related rhetorics circulate, and what are the effects of that circulation?
  • What can we learn from investigating historical representations of medicine, and historical understandings of health and wellness?
  • What methodologies might be most effective or productive in interrogating medical or health-related discourse(s)?
  • How is the body (and/or the mind) constructed via various institutions or forms of discourse? How do those constructions serve political or personal ends?
  • How are medical understandings deployed to further systems of oppression?
  • How is medical knowledge (re)appropriated to serve liberatory or positive ends?
  • What contributions can queer scholarship make to a broader reevaluation of medical and health discourses?
  • How have medicine and health worked alongside constructions of gender and sexuality?
  • How have medicine and health worked to sanction or resist various colonial/imperial projects?
  • How has race been constructed, manipulated, and marked as a result of medical and healthcare institutions?
  • Have medicine and health operated within economic frameworks, or worked to sanction or resist various class-based systems of oppression?
  • How have the lives and uses of nonhuman animals been intertwined with medical histories and institutions?
  • How have medical and health issues arisen from environmental issues, and in what ways can environmental approaches help elucidate health and medical issues?


Potential areas of study include:

  • Trauma studies
  • Expressive & Creative Art therapies
  • Gender and Sexuality Studies
  • Disability Studies
  • Marxist Studies
  • (Post)colonial and Globalism Studies
  • Critical Race theories
  • Health and Medical Rhetoric(s) & Rhetorical Studies
  • Literacy Studies
  • Histories of health and medicine
  • Literary studies
  • Animal Studies
  • New Materialism(s)
  • Environmental Racism/Environmental Justice
  • Pedagogical and Classroom Practices

Proposals for papers should be sent to umassegoconference@gmail.com, no later than January 21, 2018.