Death, Dying and Diseases: Critical Reflections

deadline for submissions: 
February 28, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Department of English, Jadavpur University



Jadavpur University Essays and Studies (JUES) Vol. 36 (Themed Issue)

                                            Editors: Dr. Rafat Ali

                                                                Dr. Doyeeta Majumder


Death, Dying and Diseases: Critical Reflections


Death, dying and diseases are some of the most important signs that human civilization, from its earliest days, has struggled to understand. Remembrance of death and warnings about the fleeting nature of earthly life, in comparison to the eternity of a resurrected and regenerated afterlife, have been a foundational aspect of the divine scriptures; and the attempt to find the right response to disease, decay and mortality and their associated emotions of pain, sorrow, loss and suffering have long preoccupied philosophers and poets. From the catharsis of pity and fear in Aristotle, the stoic notions of indifference and transcendence, to the modern western tradition of aestheticizing or sublimating it, as well as the view that such an aesthetic culture can become a crucial component of oppression’s political self-legitimation -  art has had a tricky but greatly responsible role to play in interpreting these signs. How can pain be understood, not aestheticized, as hurt or deprivation without neither passively submitting to oppression nor following one’s individual caprices in wrongly resisting order and justice? If the role of art is not to only aestheticize but connect with the essence of death and suffering, it is also not entirely removed from pleasure if we believe in the dual or paired structure of the created order of things.  So the seeming dichotomies of death/life, pain/pleasure, disease/health, sorrow/ delight and above all ephemerality/eternity become signs to be interpreted with belief in their meaning and coherence, and elicit right action and conduct that need not necessarily be seen in relation to only one aspect of these binaries.

This volume aims to bring together reflections on this subject through the experiential lens of one of the most critical signs of our own times - the coronavirus pandemic, and the role of literature and the other arts in not only eliciting the right response but also right conduct in engaging and coming to terms with it. Crises such as these have not been specific to this age alone but all ages in the past to which philosophers, poets, historians, artists – not to forget the scientists and medical professionals, along with politicians and religious leaders – have all responded in their own ways, all significantly shaping not only the meaning of life but the way in which we perceive it, its outward manifestations as well as its deepest mysteries. We wish to bring together critical reflections on such responses in the near and distant past, along with those in relation to our own near apocalyptic situation, which may extend not only to the pandemic but also the larger and gloomier but not equally hyped ecological crisis that promises complete annihilation and extinction of the human species.

Abstracts, of not more 500 words, for papers are invited from those interested in the above and its related themes listed below (indicative not exclusive).

•           The idea of life as growth and death as decay, decline and desiccation

•           Death and regeneration

•           Pestilence and politics

•           Pestilence and aesthetics

•           Pestilence and the human body (including images of the diseased body, medical treatises and texts)

•           Plague and the law (quarantine laws on land and on sea, epidemic and international law, public health policy in the first world, global south)

•           Plague and politics (pandemic as the state of exception, knowledge sharing, politics of medical aid)

•           Plague and gender

•           Sexuality in the time of contagion

•           Disease and mourning (individual/collective)

•           The fear of contagion and its psychological effects

•           Plague, passion and compassion

•           Pestilence, death and mental health

•           Disease and divinity/afterlife


The abstracts along with a brief bio-note should be sent to the following email addresses rafat.ali@jadavpuruniversity  and  by 28 February 2022.