22 January 2011

"Imaginative Worlds: Medical Humanities and ‘the uses of literature’"

Please join us for the first "The Uses of Literature" seminar of Epiphany Term, where we'll be joined by members of the Centre for Medical Humanities here at Durham University.


The Medical Humanities is an emerging interdisciplinary field of enquiry in which humanities and social sciences perspectives are brought to bear upon an exploration of the human side of medicine, broadly conceived. Literary studies has been a key contributing discipline to the development of this field; however, driven as it has been by the imperatives of medical education, the Medical Humanities has tended to value literature mainly as a form of training (in how to be empathetic, to tolerate ambiguity, to develop 'narrative competence' in the context of clinical practice). The central argument of this paper is that a more sophisticated account of the ‘uses of literature’ in the Medical Humanities is needed if the field is to continue to flourish. To that end, our paper, which is very much a work in progress, takes some first steps in the attempt to rethink the role of literature in understanding medicine and, indeed, human experience. Beginning with an overview uses of literature dominant in the Medical Humanities, we then explore alternative approaches by looking at the imaginative worlds of pre-modern literature and the Zuckerman novels of Philip Roth.

Corinne Saunders is Professor in the Department of English Studies, Associate Director of the Centre for Medical Humanities, and Director of the Institute of Medieval and Renaissance Studies. A key focus of her current work is the study of pre-Cartesian models of mind-body-affect and their links with contemporary neuroscience. Michael Mack is a Reader in the Department of English Studies and the Centre for Medical Humanities. He is currently completing a book about how literature changes the way we think. Angela Woods is a Lecturer in Medical Humanities whose first book "The Sublime Object of Psychiatry: Schizophrenia in Clinical and Cultural Theory" is forthcoming in 2011.

18 January 2011


We hope you'll join us for the next batch of seminars in the "The Uses of Literature" series. Our Epiphany Term programme runs the gamut of the arts and humanities disciplines, from the Medical Humanities to Film Studies, taking in topics including rethinking the role of literature in medicine; fictionality and human understanding; the commingling of film, fiction and celebrity culture and new, innovative tendencies in the British novel.

"The Uses of Literature" Epiphany Term Programme

6pm Tuesday 25th January 2011
"Imaginative Worlds: Medical Humanities and ‘the uses of literature’"
Corinne Saunders, Michael Mack & Angela Woods (Centre for Medical Humanities, Durham University)

6pm Tuesday 8th February 2011
“Cognition, Narrative, and the Force of Fictionality”
Richard Walsh (Department of English and Related Literature, University of York)

6pm Tuesday 22nd February 2011
"Converging Cultures: Film, Fiction and Celebrity in Spike Jonze and Bret Easton Ellis"
James Annesley (School of Literature, Language and Linguistics, Newcastle University)

TBC, March 2011: Vic Sage (School of Literature and Creative Writing, University of East Anglia)

Please note the seminars will take place on Tuesday evenings this term. As ever, the seminars take place in the Seminar Room at Hallgarth House, Hallgarth Street, Durham and are followed by drinks and discussion in the Victoria pub.

11 January 2011


We're delighted to announce that the first of our "The Uses of Literature" seminars, a spirited defence of the arts and humanities by Durham University Department of Russian's Alastair Renfrew, is now available to stream.

Dr. Alastair Renfrew - 'Genre and Discipline' by inventionsofthetext

We still have spots available for the latter part of the series, if you'd like to contribute, please email inventionsofthetext@gmail.com

10 January 2011


We will shortly be making our "The Uses of Literature" seminars available to stream as podcasts. Please stay tuned for more information.