Call for papers Textus issue 3/2024

Spreading Interdisciplinary Contaminations:
New Perspectives on Health, Illness, and Disease

Girolamo Tessuto (University of Campania Luigi Vanvitelli)
Clark Lawlor (Northumbria University)
Ilaria Natali (University of Florence)
Annalisa Federici (Roma Tre University)

Copy editors:
Maria Micaela Coppola (University of Trento)
John Gilbert (University of Florence)

The intersections between medicine and communication, both oral and written, have been recognised and discussed at least since the time of Hippocrates, who is often credited with having conceptualised the practice of healing as a semiotic craft (Baer 1988: 37; Danesi and Zukowski 2019: 5). Nonetheless, in the academic field, exchanges among literature, linguistics, and medical sciences intensified only during the 1940s and 1950s, with a progressive shift of focus away from the physician’s skills in deciphering signs and symptoms to the semiotic acts of communication to represent, perform, explain, and make sense of health and disease – and the subject’s experience of them – in real and fictional contexts. Even more recent are interdisciplinary critical orientations developing in the areas of linguistics and literary inquiries, with seminal studies by Felman (1985), Kleinman (1988), Ingram (1991), Roberts and Porter (1993), and Frank (1995). Together with perspectives such as feminism, queer theory, and disability studies, these orientations have paved the way for wellness and illness narratives to come to the forefront and disentangle themselves from the disciplinary “colonialism” of scientific discourse (Charon 2006; Jurecic 2012).
Far from being mere interpretations of bodily symptoms, the ideas of disease, illness, and pathology are often symbolically or metaphorically constructed (Sontag 1978; Graham and Sewell 1990; Semino et al. 2020; Garzone 2023) and always rooted in specific contexts and times. Hence, investigating their representations necessarily entails moving beyond physician-patient dynamics to cope with broader cultural and social concerns. Linguistic, literary, and cultural studies themselves can engage with medical representations to “reveal their function in their historical context” (Gilman 2011: 73; Gilman 1988), to emphasise their constitutive relation to identity and language, and to unveil their inherent connection with conceptualisations of a “healthy” body and mind (Ferrara 1994), thus challenging stigmas associated with various forms of disease, illness, disability, and trauma.
The intricacies of the mutual effects between language and human health have inspired scholars from different theoretical backgrounds to consider the public and private dimensions of discourse about health and healthcare across a wide and diverse range of contexts, genres, and media (Gwyn 2002; Furst 2003; Heritage and Maynard 2006; Harvey and Koteyko 2012; Skelton 2013; Canziani et al. 2014; Hamilton and Chou 2014; Mullini 2015; Hilger 2017; Garzone et al. 2019; Brookes and Hunt 2021; Lawlor and Mangham 2021; Tweedie and Johnson 2022), giving floor to “different types of discourses that go side by side with the linguistic practices of participants involved in the textual universe of medicine and healthcare” (Tessuto 2023: xvii). Accordingly, to explore the multiple and complex ways in which the complementary perspectives of linguistic, literary and cultural studies can interact critically with medical discourses, this issue of Textus encourages scholars to investigate a broad spectrum of “literariness” and health-related narratives, including letters, memoirs, (auto)pathographies, marginalia, mixed-media narratives, patientprovider interactions, case histories, medical blogs, as well as other liminal and interstitial forms of expression, textual
contaminations, and anomalies.
Suggested topics for this issue include, but are not limited to:
● past and present representational practices concerning health and the body;
● literature, medicine, and their reciprocal influences;
● the role of literature in creating/representing/challenging cultural discourses of physical and/or mental health, wellbeing, disease, and trauma;
● medical practitioners and/or patients as writers, narrators, and fictional characters;
● representations or narratives of disease, illness, health, disability, trauma, etc.;
● narratives of social injustice in medical practices and experiences;
● gender identity and medical discourse;
● dynamics of communication between doctors and patients across different genres, medias, and contexts;
● relationships between language, style, forms, and methods of literary research and medical discourse;
● impacts and implications of changes in technology-mediated healthcare communication;
● medical and therapeutic narratives and their relationship with healing;
● counter-narratives of mainstream conceptualisations of health and wellbeing.

Deadline for abstracts: 31 December 2023

Please submit your abstract of around 500 words to:

Acceptance of abstracts to be notified by 20 January 2024

Deadline for articles: 31 March 2024

Baer, Eugen, 1988, Medical Semiotics, University Press of America, Lantham.
Brookes, Gavin and Hunt, Daniel, 2021, Analysing Health Communication: Discourse Approaches, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.
Byrne, Patrick S. and Long, Barrie E.L., 1976, Doctors Talking to Patients: A Study of the Verbal Behaviours of Doctors in the Consultation, HMSO, London.
Canziani, Tatiana, Grego, Kim, Iamartino, Giovanni (eds), 2014, Perspectives in Medical English, Polimetrica, Monza.
Charon, Rita, 2006, Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness, O.U.P., Oxford.
Danesi, Marcel and Zukowski, Nicolette, 2019, Medical Semiotics: Medicine and Cultural Meaning, Lincom, Munich.
Felman, Shoshana, 1985, Writing and Madness (Literature/Philosophy/Psychoanalysis), Cornell University Press, New York.
Ferrara, Kathleen W., 1994, Therapeutic Ways with Words, O.U.P., Oxford.
Frank, Arthur, 1995, The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, Ethics, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
Furst, Lilian R., 2003, Idioms of Distress: Psychosomatic Disorders in Medical and Imaginative Literature, State University of New York Press, Albany.
Garzone, Giuliana E., 2023, “Metaphor and Disease in the Media: Focus on COVID Communication”, in G. Tessuto, R. Ashcroft, V.K. Bhatia (eds), Professional Discourse across Medicine, Law, and Other Disciplines: Issues and Perspectives, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, pp. 1-33.
Garzone, Giuliana E., Paganoni, Maria Cristina, Reisigl, Martin (eds), 2019, Discursive Representations of Controversial Issues in Medicine and Health. Lingue, Culture, Mediazioni 6 (1).
Gilman, Sander L., 1988, Disease and Representation: Images of Illness from Madness to AIDS, Cornell University Press, New York.
Gilman, Sander L., 2011, “Representing Health and Illness: Thoughts for the 21st Century”, Journal of Medical Humanities 32, pp. 69-75.
Graham, Peter W. and Sewell, Elizabeth (eds), 1990, Fictive Ills: Literary Perspectives on Wounds and Diseases. Literature and Medicine 9.
Gwyn, Richard, 2002, Communicating Health and Illness, Sage, London.
Hamilton, Heidi and Chou, Wen-ying Sylvia (eds), 2014, The Routledge Handbook of Language and Health Communication, Routledge, London-New York.
Harvey, Kevin and Koteyko, Nelya, 2012, Exploring Health Communication: Language in Action, Routledge, London.
Heritage, John and Maynard, Douglas W. (eds), 2006, Communication in Medical Care: Interaction between Primary Care Physicians and Patients, C.U.P., Cambridge.
Hilger, Stephanie M. (ed.), 2017, New Directions in Literature and Medicine Studies, Palgrave Macmillan, London.
Ingram, Allan, 1991, The Madhouse of Language: Writing and Reading Madness in the Eighteenth Century, Routledge, London.
Jurecic, Ann, 2012, Illness as Narrative, University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh.
Kleinman, Arthur, 1988, The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing, and the Human Condition, Basic Books, New York.
Lawlor, Clark and Mangham, Andrew (eds.), 2021, Literature and Medicine: The Nineteenth Century, 2 vols., C.U.P., Cambridge.
Mullini, Roberta, 2015, Healing Words: The Printed Handbills of Early Modern London Quacks, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am MainBerlin-Bern-Bruxelles-New York-Oxford-Wien.
Roberts, Marie M. and Porter, Roy (eds.), 1993, Literature and Medicine During the Eighteenth Century, Routledge, London.
Semino, Elena, Demjén, Zsophia, Hardie, Andrew, Payne, Sheila, Rayson, Paul, 2020, Metaphor, Cancer and the End of Life: A
Corpus-Based Study, Routledge, London.
Sontag, Susan, 1978, Illness as Metaphor, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York.
Tessuto, Girolamo, 2023, “Introduction”, in G. Tessuto, R. Ashcroft, V.K. Bhatia (eds), Professional Discourse across Medicine,
Law, and Other Disciplines: Issues and Perspectives, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne, pp. xiii-xxxiv

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