CFP: Modernism, Medicine and the Embodied Mind, Bristol

Published on: Author: Hannah Tweed Leave a comment

Date: 15th-16th July 2016

The AHRC-funded network, ‘Modernism, Medicine and the Embodied Mind’, seeks to investigate the historical and discursive links between literary modernism, medical discoveries, and clinical practice, in dialogue with the insights of visual artists and art historians, dancers and dance scholars, and contemporary scientists and clinicians. Underpinning the project is the significance of phenomenology and the first-person experience of medicine, as explored in literature, theatre, dance, and the philosophy of medicine. A phenomenological approach is also applied to medical education through performance-based pedagogies.

The conference combines aesthetic criticism – which can attend to aesthetic form and engage in nuanced ways with questions of language, representation, subjectivity, and affect – with the archival emphases of cultural history and the conceptual rigour of philosophy and critical theory, to explore modernism’s specific ability to speak to seemingly unruly mental and embodied states, and the conceptual ‘black hole’ of extreme old age.

Confirmed keynote speaks include:

Among the questions the conference seeks to address are:

  • What can be learned from the fact that modernist formal innovations developed in dialogue with late nineteenth and early twentieth-century medical discoveries and evolving therapeutic practices in psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and psychiatry? What are the implications of this for intellectual enquiry and clinical practice?
  • How might realist and humanist models of narrative and self be inadequate, injurious or counter-therapeutic in understanding experiences and events such as the radical contingency of brain injury, neuro-degeneration, certain kinds of psychiatric illness, and the epistemological and ontological uncertainties experienced in the period approaching death?
  • The turn of the twentieth century is also a period of intense formal experimentation in the visual arts and in dance. How can these radical aesthetic transformations be understood as responses to contemporary medical discoveries and the evolved conception of the self that these discoveries engendered? How did medical ideas affect new modes of representation in the visual arts and in dance?
  • What specific issues and challenges do chronic and terminal conditions of body and mind present to both patients and doctors? How might modernist modes of enquiry and representation offer alternative ways of understanding, treating and living with conditions that are resistant to the ideas of overcoming and amelioration typically articulated within conventional narrative and linguistic frameworks? How can such methods influence illness narratives and narrative medicine?
  • How might the insights of modernist form and phenomenological philosophy be applied to the conditions, experiences and perspectives of ageing? How might they offer new ways to think about the continuation and integrity of the self in extreme old age and dementia?
  • How might nosological classifications be reassessed through engagements with philosophical perspectives such as phenomenology and the emphasis on selfhood and subjective experience found in literary, theatrical and cinematic representations?
  • How might performance-based methodologies be applied to the development of medical pedagogy and the context of clinical care?

Cultural Programme
Jonathan Heron, international theatre practitioner and scholar, will inaugurate his new performance piece, which will be staged at Bristol’s Wickham Theatre on 15 July 2016 for conference delegates. A performance that unmakes and remakes itself, Rosemary is the outcome of Jonathan Heron’s five-year collaboration with the Beckett actor and renowned scholar Rosemary Pountney. Addressing the experiences of ageing, dying and bereavement, this new commission has been especially created for the AHRC-funded ‘Modernism, Medicine and the Embodied Mind’ project at the universities of Bristol, Exeter and Warwick.

On 16 July 2016, the artist Deborah Robinson will inaugurate her new exhibition, Like a Signal Falling, at Glenside Psychiatric Hospital Museum in Bristol. The exhibition has been created for, and taken its inspiration from ‘Modernism, Medicine and the Embodied Mind’. All conference delegates are warmly welcome.

The conference will take place in the historic site of Goldney Hall, situated in the Clifton area of Bristol. Some accommodation will be available in the Hall, which boasts beautiful and extensive eighteenth-century gardens, including a Grade 1-listed grotto, amid a city-centre location.

Please email abstracts of 250 words.

The deadline for abstracts is 28th March 2016. Delegates will be notified of the outcome by 11th April 2016.

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