Illness, Society and the Self

deadline for submissions: 
March 15, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Henry James Society

In the context of the current viral pandemic, we look with fresh intensity at figurations of the invalid and of disease and disability in James’s fictional and non-fictional writing. With an eye to the cultural and political aspects of public health measures aimed at managing the spread of an infectious pathogen, we ask in particular about the relation in James’s work of sickness, subjectivity and society. How do James’s texts relate social experience to bodily ill-health or impairment? Does James position the invalid as a figure indicative of dysfunction in the larger social body, or suggest, in contrast, that illness or disability may be associated with an excess of social contact, a failure of ‘social distancing’? Or may we identify in James’s work representations of the sick, the disabled or the dying as figures external to social networks, and therefore resistant to political or moralised interpretation?


All approaches to the topic are welcomed. Possible focuses might include:

-            Health status and the question of travel

-            Isolation and self-isolation in illness and/or death

-            Mental health v. bodily hygiene

-            ‘Contagion’

-            The social visibility of the pregnant woman: ‘confinement’ as metaphor and reality

-            Doctor-patient relationships

-            The space of the sick room

-            Gender, disease and disability

-            The 'convalescent' patient and society

-            Slow declines and sudden ends: the social temporality of death


Please send 250-word proposals for 15-20-minute papers or 10-minute roundtable talks to and by FEBRUARY 18, 2021. Please note if you will have AV requirements.