Call for Papers: ‘The Healing Classics: Medical Humanities and the Graeco-Roman Tradition’

Submission of abstracts: 1 April 2021; Conference dates: 9-10 September 2021

“A properly critical medical humanities is also a historically grounded medical humanities.”*

What potential relevance does the experience of Graeco-Roman antiquity have to the emerging field of the critical medical humanities and their mission to ‘humanise’ today’s medical and healthcare practice, education and research? This two-day conference aims to bring together specialists from around the world (including medical professionals, art therapists, classicists, philosophers, historians and other HSS scholars) to engage in an interdisciplinary dialogue about healthcare and the conceptualization of well-being and illness, with a specific emphasis on what role Graeco-Roman antiquity can play for healthcare providers and users today (professionals, nurses, patients, carers).

By turning to, and drawing inspiration from, ancient Greek and Roman sources (medical or otherwise), the conference is intended to yield fresh insights into issues such as the ideology of health, narratives of illness, the confrontation with mortality, the importance of professional ethics, and so on. What does it mean to be a (healthy) human being? What is the value of ‘making sense’ of trauma and loss? What are the role, value and requirements of human qualities in the context of healthcare? What useful strategies do ancient sources propose for living ‘well’ with chronic pain, disability, illness? Central to our endeavour will be to explore (but also debate) the continuing creativity and vitality inherent in the classical tradition, hence our specific interest in the use of classical themes and motifs in/for creative and expressive arts therapy (dance/movement therapy, music therapy, drama therapy, poetry therapy, etc.).

Besides looking for fresh, hitherto unexplored perspectives on these and related issues, we aim to take stock of past (and present) achievements situated at the junction of both fields. Apart from accepting individual papers bearing on these topics we will stimulate the use of other creative formats (e.g., performance, initiation, demonstration, recitation). We hope to create an open-minded, yet critical, platform and the space to allow experimental and risk-taking dialogue between classics-oriented scholars and stakeholders in the domain of medicine/health. Given this aim to put past and present into conversation, to discover continuities and contrasts with contemporary perspectives, we warmly welcome proposals for paired presentations and interdisciplinary panels. Selected papers will be edited in a thematic volume, which will be submitted for publication in Peter Lang’s new series Medical Humanities: Criticism and Creativity.

Confirmed speakers:

– Ellen Adams

– Véronique Boudon-Millot

– Susan Deacy

– Tania Gergel

– Edith Hall

– Brook Holmes

– Daniel King

– Christian Laes

– Robert Marshall

– Mary Margaret McCabe

– Peter Meineck

– Georgia Petridou

– Corinne Saunders

– Chiara Thumiger

If you are interested to participate, please submit your abstract (300 words) and short CV (5-10 lines) as one file to [email protected] by 1 April 2021. We are making arrangements for a hybrid event, taking place partly online and partly offline (venue TBD). In your file please mention whether you would consider travelling to London or would prefer to participate online. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Michiel Meeusen, also on behalf of Professor Brian Hurwitz and Professor Michael Trapp


* C. Saunders, “Voices and Visions: Mind, Body and Affect in Medieval Writing”, in J. Richards, S. Atkinson, J. Macnaughton, A. Woods & A. Whitehead (eds.), The Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities, Edinburgh, 2016: 411-427, at 411.