Special Issue on Diseases, Disasters, Deaths and Disorders in Arts, Literature and Culture

deadline for submissions: 
May 15, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Golden Line
contact email: 


Ever since the birth of life on this planet, Evolution was predestined to be accidental in nature and chaotic in pattern. The chaotic disorder is most clearly evident in the evolution of the microorganisms, which can be either benevolent or malevolent for other organisms. In the big timeline of evolutionary history, humans occupy a very small scale and the historical timeline is very short. Still, in this short span we have many records of diseases and deaths affecting humankind all over the world. As S.E. Gould wrote in the Scientific American “Although many human infections only developed after human settlements and animal domestication, early human ancestors would still have been fighting off bacteria and other nasty diseases.” Gabriel Trueba and Micah Dunthorn reported that “during the Paleolithic period, many human-specific infectious diseases may have originated in primates, not in domestic animals.” These diseases in the form of epidemic and pandemic frequently changed the course of human history, destroyed civilizations resulting in mass migration. This, however, indirectly contributed to the remaking of human culture in the sense that the outbreaks forced humans to adopt new ways of life, settle in new lands, explore new ideas and search for alternatives in crisis periods. Throughout our human cultural evolution, humans have responded in many ways as an act of resistance to the diseases and to the collective and personal losses, as an act of appeasement for neutralizing the invisible natural and supernatural powers, as an act of precaution for future generations and so on.

Just as the phenomenon of regenerative power and growth in nature inspired the notion of Mother Earth, the spectacle of suffering and disasters inspired the notion of malevolent agencies in nature and gave birth to the notion of many gods, demons and invisible malevolent operators. As a response, shamanism arose as an intermediary agency. With the Neolithic agricultural settlement, many new diseases got transmitted from the domesticated animals and at the same time we witness the rise of religions as a system of protection. With the Chalcolithic consolidation of human culture mythology arose as a testament of the power of the invisible forces operating in nature. As the whole world seemed to be a sacrificial altar of universal human tragedy, poetry was used as a tool to appease those forces. Similarly humans devoted their best architectural skills to the creation of the grandest building in the form of temples and best sculptural skills to the making of idols of gods which would supposedly protect their cities and lives.

The issue of disease and death became acute after the Industrial Revolution which gave birth to colonialism. It made an intervention not just in the lives of the natives but also in the lives of the other animals, environment and nature itself with its policies and of course, with the introduction of new diseases unknown hitherto in those lands.

During the Cold War years, medieval warfare strategy was raised to a new height of scientific perversion with the experiment and introduction of biological weapons. Some suspect that right now with the Corona pandemic we are verily the victims of this weapon. True or false, scientists tell us that many of the recent outbreaks are just consequences of the neocolonial greed that violates human, animal and environmental ethics.

In the context of COVID 19, many sensitive thinkers strongly anticipate that the pandemic will force humans to adopt alternative lifestyle and healthy food habits, explore new ways of life, seek new patterns of thinking and establish new world order. Of course, if we want a better future and avert the ensuing disaster. For, the Global Warming, the scientist sternly warns, is leading to the loss of permafrost and old viruses will spread new deadly diseases.

In our themed issue, we would like contributors to explore how literature and visual arts record the human responses to diseases, deaths and disaster. Teachers, research scholars and UG/PG students can also submit their articles/essays.

We have selected few areas which are not exclusive but illustrative:

Suggested Topics

  • Toba catastrophe in popular media
  • Natural disasters (like Storegga Slide) in pre-historic and historic times and their impact on culture as reflected in literature and arts
  • Death and disaster in the books of religions and mythology
  • Diseases and deaths in classical literature
  • Epidemics and migration in literature and arts
  • Death in Romantic Literature
  • Disease and Escapism
  • Natural Disaster in literature
  • Colonialism and spread of diseases
  • Presentation of diseases in Visual Arts
  • Plague paintings
  • Quarantine and intellectual productivity and creative output ( Giovanni Boccaccio, William Shakespeare, Issac Newton, Salvato Rosa, Edvard Munch)
  • Disaster and development of Philosophy
  • Diseases in Science Fiction
  • Portrayal of viruses and the apocalyptic vision in contemporary movies
  • Coverage and presentation of Corona in print and electronic media
  • Social media responses to Corona
  • Beyond Corona: a vision for a new world order
  • Health Humanities: theories and insights

Author’s Guidelines:

  • Deadline of submission: April 30, 2020.
  • Articles should be written in a MS Word file following MLA style
  • Word Limit: 2000-3000 words, Abstract of 100-150 words with keywords.
  • Authors’ bio-note of around 100 words should be added at the end of the paper.