(CFP: PAMLA 2019) Literature and Healing

deadline for submissions: 
June 10, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Toshiaki Komura / Pacific and Ancient Modern Language Association
contact email: 

This session seeks papers on the relationship between literature and healing, broadly conceptualized.  As theories and practices such as catharsis and bibliotherapy suggest, literature has functioned, over the course of its history, as a source of healing in times of need; “We need elegies,” Countee Cullen writes in the closing line of a poem entitled “Threnody for a Brown Girl.”  The expositions on literature and healing date back to ancient times and continue up to the present:  Apollo is not only the god of poetry but also of medicine; Aristotle’s theory of catharsis portrays how tragedies allow readers to experience extremities in safety, as part of the purification of their soul; D. H. Lawrence writes in a letter, “one sheds one’s sickness in books”; after the 9/11 attacks, poems were found everywhere in New York—on the brick walls of police stations and firehouses, behind the mountains of flowers, between photos of the dead, as described in Poetry After 9/11: An Anthology of New York Poets.

The larger question we will ask ourselves is the following:  how, in today’s climate of divisions and disruptions, does literature retain and exercise its power to catalyze healing?  A non-exhaustive list of related questions may include:  What kind of literary work reinvigorates us, and how?  What hope or empathy does literature generate?  How do theories, such as Freud’s relief theory of laughter formulated in Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, inform our understanding of literature’s potential as social or personal remedy?  In keeping with the PAMLA 2019 theme of “Send in the Clowns,” we will explore both the traditional literatures of lamentation and the healing potentials of purgative laughter, farce, satire, clowning, and humor.  Papers may explore close analyses of literary texts, classroom or clinical stories of literature and healing, interdisciplinary exploration of consolatory literature, among other possibilities.  

Areas of inquiry encompass, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Literature and healing
  • Laughter, satire, humor in literature
  • Psychological and psychoanalytic approaches to literature
  • Elegiac literature
  • Pedagogy – teaching literature
  • Creative writing – writing and wellness
  • Interdisciplinary (e.g. literature, politics, cultural studies, therapeutic practices, etc.)
  • Comparative literature – comparison across time periods or cultures

The 2019 PAMLA Conference will be held at the Wyndham San Diego Bayside hotel in San Diego, CA from Thursday, November 14 to Sunday, November 17.

More information about the conference can be found at PAMLA’s conference website:


Paper proposals can be submitted via our online system found here:


The abstract proposal deadline is Monday, June 10.