‘Attentive Writers’: Healthcare, Authorship, and Authority (CfP, Conference, Medical Humanities Research Centre, University of Glasgow, 23-­25 August 2013)

* CfP deadline extended to March 18 * From nurses, physicians and surgeons to administrators, caregivers, physiotherapists, technicians, veterinarians and voluntary sector workers, this conference adopts the term ‘attentive writers’ as evocative of the multitude of both non-professional and professional caregivers – clinical and non-clinical healthcare workers – whose attention to illness might take narrative form. The study of physician-writers was one of the earliest developments in the related fields of Literature and Medicine and the Medical Humanities, with canonical figures such as Conan Doyle, Goldsmith, Keats, Smollett, and William Carlos Williams, receiving much-deserved critical attention. Echoing Rita Charon’s concept of ’attentiveness’, this conference brings this established field of enquiry regarding ‘the physician as writer’ into dialogue with recent calls for a more inclusive approach to the Medical Humanities (i.e. ‘Health Humanities’) and questions the authoritative place of the Western – traditionally male – physician in our explorations of the humanities/health interface.

The relationship between healthcare, authorship and authority will be addressed through three inter-related strands  of thematic enquiry: (1) an historical and literary examination of ‘attentive writers’; (2) a more devolved interrogation of the field of Narrative Medicine; and (3) an examination of ‘attentive writing’ as creative practice.

Current Confirmed Plenary Speakers: Professor Rita Charon; Professor Paul Crawford; Further TBA

Papers might address, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • Nurse-writers, physician-writers, surgeon-writers, veterinarian-writers, etc. of any culture, historical period or literary epoch, and/or nurses, physicians, surgeons, and vets as literary subjects
  • Non-clinical healthcare workers (administrators, janitors, receptionists, technicians, etc.) as writers and/or literary subjects
  • The literature of caregiving
  • Gender and medical authority
  • Historical development of medical and literary professionalism
  • The afterlife of Foucault’s ‘medical gaze’
  • Hybrid discourses and genres (the case history, illness narratives, etc.
  • Narrative Medicine (and particularly does it challenge or reinforce the notion of the physician as sole author/authority) and related developments in professionalism and education
  • The philosophy of attentiveness in healthcare and creative writin
  • ‘Attentive writing’ as creative practice; including ‘process oriented’ writing practices and those primarily concerned with the creation of aesthetically valuable outcomes.

For Creative Writers: We’re particularly looking for papers and readings from creative writers in all genres whose writing is rooted in questions about, experiences of or research into issues of illness, caregiving, and medicine.  We are also interested in how creativity may be impacted by any of these.  We’re particularly interested in discussing how our subjects, genres, research and craft exist in tension and help to produce expansive and important contributions to literature.  For the most part, these contributions should move beyond writing as reflection, to literary writing that complicates and communicates knowledge and experiences of issues currently falling within the frame of medical/health humanities.

Proposals of up to 500 words for 20-minute papers/readings should be submitted via email, along with a short biography (no more than 250 words), by 18 March 2013 (note extended deadline). Proposals from academics, clinical and non-clinical healthcare workers, creative writers, and interested lay persons are all most welcome. For further information and updates, visit the conference web site.

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