Literary Diagnosis and the Anti-Medical Humanities

deadline for submissions: 
October 30, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
ACLA 2021
contact email: 

With Health Humanities on the rise and medical memoirs flooding bookshelves, it's easy to forget that the alliances forged between literary representation and medical discourse are new and fragile. Writers from a multitude of traditions have long squared off against doctors for the right to understand illness and capture the essence of the diseased subject. Their motivations have spanned from the starkly political to the intensely personal.

This panel seeks to explore the formal approaches and theoretical implications of these Anti-Medical Humanities. What drives these writers to resist the assimilation of the literary into the medical, and vice versa?

Potential topics could include, but are not limited to:

  • Cultural motivations for elevating literary over medical discourse (postcolonial, post-Soviet, and Global South perspectives especially encouraged);
  • How this clash reveals the difficulty of "translating" pain, disease, and chronic illness;
  • Whether interventions between these discourses give new insight into experience of being ill, mad, or otherwise dis-eased;
  • Whether literary tradition and medical narrative are in fact indebted to, or even infected by, one another;
  • Approaches that disturb set divisions between the fictional and the "real;"
  • Reworkings of this literary-medical clash of authority in post-modern contexts.

Please submit your proposal (max. 350 words) and CV through the ACLA site by October 31st. Questions for the organizer are welcome.