Epidemic Remedies In Medical Writing (1500 - 1920) 18-19 June 2024

deadline for submissions: 
March 15, 2024
full name / name of organization: 
University of Ferrara - Department of Humanities

This conference aims to discuss the representation of epidemic remedies in medical
writing in England and in France between 1500 and 1920. Prospective presenters are
invited to address epidemic remedies across five centuries, bearing three main
methodological observations in mind. Firstly, the pivotal role of the plague and the
Spanish influenza as opening and closing points to the selected timeframe. Secondly,
the working definition of “remedy” as a cure “for a disease, disorder, injury, etc.; a
medicine or treatment that promotes healing or alleviates symptoms.” (OED, remedy
2). This comprehensive definition intends to allow for historical specification and
diachronic terminological variation, which the prospective presenters are invited to
explore and specify. Thirdly, the definition of representation as “the process by which
members of a culture use language (broadly defined as any system which deploys
signs, any signifying system) to produce meaning” (Hall 1997: 61), with particular
emphasis on language use at lexical and discourse level, as well as the interaction
between semiotic systems (e.g. word and image).
A vast body of research has explored medical writing across the centuries. Several of
these studies have delved into how text types, discourses, and specialised vocabulary
evolve diachronically (Gotti, 2006; Taavitsainen, 2006; Taavitsainen & Pahta, 2011;
Taavitsainen et al., 2022) as well as into how they manifest synchronically (Gotti &
Salager-Meyer, 2006). Remedies, too, have been addressed from a diachronic
perspective (Jacobus et al., 1990; Laycock, 2008; Mullini, 2013).
The present aim is not only to offer a diachronic perspective on the linguistic and
visual representation of remedies, but also to focus on remedies prescribed during
epidemics, with a view to better understanding the history of medical and health
Potential research questions straddle multiple standpoints - historical linguistics, the
analysis of discourse, the analysis of lexis, as well as images - and multiple text types
(medical treatises, medical dictionaries, periodical publications, medical
advertisements through time). They include but are not limited to:

  • The lexical description of remedies in medical writing
  • The metaphorical description of remedies in medical writing
  • The rhetorical construction of ethos in medical writing dealing with epidemic remedies
  • The visual representation of remedies in medical writing
  • The visual representation of remedies in newspapers/magazines
  • The linguistic-visual construal of remedies in texts containing multiple semiotic systems (i.e. advertisements)
  • the insurgence of misinformation and disinformation in/about health
    communication (these categories may be epistemologically relevant in papers
    dealing with the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries)

We invite proposals from a wide range of methodological perspectives. To name but a
few: corpus-assisted critical discourse analysis, critical discourse analysis, multimodal
discourse analysis, historical lexicography and terminology, new historicism, cultural
theory, epistemology, philosophy of science, gender medicine, and gender theory.
Please submit a one-page abstract (ca. 200 – 300 words excluding references).
Presentations (in English or in French) will consist of a 20-minute talk followed by 10
minutes for questions and discussion.
All research papers should be delivered in person. All abstracts should be submitted to
remediesconference2023@unife.it. All abstracts should be anonymised and include a
title and up to five keywords.

Key dates:

  • The call for papers opens on 15 January 2024.
  • The deadline for abstract submission is 15 March 2024.
  • Notification of acceptance (or rejection) will be sent out by 15 April 2024.
  • Registration commences on 1 May 2024.
  • The conference will take place from 18 to 19 June 2024.

The conference is organized as part of the FIRD project “Il rimedio tra divulgazione
scientifica e fake news in Francia e in Inghilterra nel XVI e nel XX secolo”, which is
financed by the Department of Humanities at the University of Ferrara.

Scientific and Organizing Committee: Dario Del Fante (Principal Investigator),
Anna Anselmo, Daniele Speziari, Vera Gajiu.


Gotti, M., & Salager-Meyer, F. (2006). Advances in Medical Discourse Analysis:
Oral and Written Contexts. Retrieved from

Hall, S. (1997). Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying
Practices. London: Sage.

Jacobus, M., Keller, E. F., & Shuttleworth, S. (1990). Body/politics: Women and
the discourses of science. New York : Routledge. Retrieved from

Jones, C. (1996). Plague and its Metaphors in Early Modern France.
Representations, 53, pp. 97-127.

Laycock, D. (2008). How Remedies Became a Field: A History. The Review of
Litigation, 27(2), 164–267.

Montagne, V. (2017). Médecine et rhétorique à la Renaissance. Le cas du traité de
peste en langue vernaculaire. Paris: Classiques Garnier.

Ramsey, M. (1982). Traditional Medicine and Medical Enlightenment: The
Regulation of Secret Remedies in the Ancien Régime. Historical Reflections /
Réflexions Historiques, 9(1/2), 215–232.

Taavitsainen, I., & Pahta, P. (2011). Medical Writing in Early Modern English.
Cambridge University Press. Retrieved from

Taavitsainen, Irma. (2006). Audience guidance and learned medical writing in late
medieval English. In M. Gotti & F. Salager-Meyer (Eds.), Advances in Medical
Discourse Analysis (pp. 431–456). New York: Peter Lang.

Taavitsainen, Irma, Hiltunen, T., Smith, J. J., & Suhr, C. (Eds.). (2022). Genre in
English Medical Writing, 1500–1820: Sociocultural Contexts of Production and
Use. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/9781009105347

Thomas, Daniel. (2022). La grippe espagnole 1918-1919. Le virus H1N1 et la
grande pandémie du XX e siècle, Collection Les Cahiers de Rennes en sciences, 15, Rennes : Chantepie

Vinet, Freddy. (2018). La grande grippe 1918. La pire épidémie du siècle. Collection
Chroniques. Paris: Vendémiaire.