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Medicine and Poetry: From the Greeks to the Enlightenment

Medicine and Poetry: From the Greeks to the Enlightenment, University of Miami, March 20, 2015

From Homer’s depiction of wounds and Lucretius on plague and death to Erasmus Darwin’s rhymed verse portrayals of plants and zoology and beyond, poetic texts have reflected, disseminated, and actively engaged with contemporary ideas about medicine and the body. While scholarly work on poetry or the history and philosophy of science has long proceeded in parallel, the conjunction of the two remains understudied. With the recent surge of interest in medical Humanities and sub-topics such as narrative medicine and the verbal (in)articulation of bodily pain, the time is right to propose a conference investigating how medical knowledge is expressed, often by non-specialists, in poetry.

We invite abstracts for 20-minute papers on any aspect of the relationship between poetry and medical thought from Classical antiquity through the Enlightenment, including, but not limited to:

  • The depiction of psychic as well as physical suffering in the Homeric epics.
  • The appearance of technical medical terminology in 5th century BCE drama.
  • Representations of others’ bodies as afflicted or diseased as in, for example, Catullus.
  • Representations of the poet’s own body as afflicted or diseased as in, for example, Ennius, Horace, and Persius.
  • The healing function of poetry (e.g. paean songs or the therapeutic aim of Lucretius’ De rerum natura)
  • The medical or physiological character of poetic disposition (e.g. melancholy as a peculiarly salient trait of Romantic and other poets)
  • The reception of Classical medical poetics in post-Classical periods.
  • Narrative therapy as a way to make sense of death and disease.
  • Poetry as a distinctive or even necessary medium for the expression of medical knowledge.

Keynote speaker: Brooke Holmes, Princeton University


Posted on Jun 20, 2014 in Calls for Papers

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