CFP: Attentive Writers

‘Attentive Writers’: Healthcare, Authorship, and Authority | Medical Humanities Research Centre, University of Glasgow | 23-­25 August 2013

From nurses, physicians and surgeons to administrators, caregivers, physiotherapists, technicians, veterinarians and voluntary sector workers, this conference adopts the term ‘attentive writers’ as evocative of the multitude of both non-professional and professional caregivers – clinical and non-clinical healthcare workers – whose attention to illness might take narrative form. The study of physician-writers was one of the earliest developments in the related fields of Literature and Medicine and the Medical Humanities, with canonical figures such as Conan Doyle, Goldsmith, Keats, Smollett, and William Carlos Williams, receiving much-deserved critical attention. Echoing Rita Charon’s concept of ‘attentiveness’, this conference brings this established field of enquiry regarding ‘the physician as writer’ into dialogue with recent calls for a more inclusive approach to the Medical Humanities (i.e. ‘Health Humanities’) and questions the authoritative place of the Western – traditionally male – physician in our explorations of the humanities/health interface.

The relationship between healthcare, authorship and authority will be addressed through three inter-related strands of thematic enquiry: (1) an historical and literary examination of ‘attentive writers’; (2) a more devolved interrogation of the field of Narrative Medicine; and (3) an examination of ‘attentive writing’ as creative practice. Current confirmed Plenary Speakers: Professor Rita Charon and Professor Paul Crawford.

Papers might address, but are not limited to, the following topics:

  • Nurse-writers, physician-writers, surgeon-writers, veterinarian-writers, etc. of any culture, historical period or literary epoch, and/or nurses, physicians, surgeons, and vets as literary subjects
  • Non-clinical healthcare workers (administrators, janitors, receptionists, technicians, etc.) as writers and/or literary subjects
  • The literature of caregiving
  • Gender and medical authority
  • Historical development of medical and literary professionalism
  • The afterlife of Foucault’s ‘medical gaze’
  • Hybrid discourses and genres (the case history, illness narratives, etc.)
  • Narrative Medicine (and particularly does it challenge or reinforce the notion of the physician as sole author/authority) and related developments in professionalism and education
  • The philosophy or attentiveness in healthcare and creative writing
  • ‘Attentive writing’ as creative practice; including ‘process oriented’ writing practices and those primarily concerned with the creation of aesthetically valuable outcomes.

Proposals of up to 500 words for 20-minute papers should be submitted via email, along with a short biography (no more than 250 words) by 1st February 2013. Proposals from academics, clinicians, creative writers, non-clinical healthcare workers, caregivers, and interested laypersons are all most welcome. Further information for creative writers wishing to make a submission will be announced shortly. Email: arts_attentivewriters@glasgow.ac.uk

Writing and Health Care (Conference)

The Examined Life: Writing and the Art of Medicine. The University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine will host a three-day conference (April 19-21, 2012) focusing on the links between the science of medicine and the art of writing.The University of Iowa is among the nation’s premier centers for creative writing, and its programs attract writers from all over the world. A dozen Pulitzer Prize-winners, numerous National Book Award recipients, and four recent US Poet Laureates have attended the University of Iowa. The University is home to the International Writing Program, the Nonfiction Writing Program, the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, and the Iowa Review. It is also home to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the first creative writing degree program in the United States, and the model for contemporary writing programs. The deadline for submissions is Wednesday, December 1, 2011. Further information at: http://www.healthcare.uiowa.edu/examinedlife/

The Writer’s Diet: Wasteline Test

Professor Helen Sword (University of Aukland, NZ) asks why so much academic writing is so stodgy and unreadable.

Her Web site The Writer’s Diet provides you with resources to trim that fat, including an on-line Wasteline Test.

Rachel Toor: How Do You Learn to Edit Yourself?

Writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Rachel Toor asks, “How Do You Learn to Edit Yourself?”

How can I help far-away geologists and physicists, historians and philologists, write better prose? I can’t. Not in some abstract, general way. All I can do is urge them to pay attention to well-written works in their own field, to read not just for content, but also for the nuances of style, and to steal the tools and tricks that good writers use. I can beg them to care about their sentences.

She also recommends several books about writing, including the venerable Strunk and White The Elements of Style, Joseph Williams’s Style: Toward Clarity and Grace, Deirdre McCloskey’s Economical Writing, and On Writing by Stephen King

Toor concludes: “Many professors say they don’t have time to spend on such self-help books. I say you don’t have time not to.”

Chronicle: Attention!

Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Amy Benson Brown, who directs the author-development program at Emory University’s Center for Faculty Development and Excellence, observes of scholarly writing habits:

As a writer and editor who coaches academic writers, I’ve witnessed how tricky that juggling act can be, especially in recent years. Besides teaching, doing research, and carrying out administrative responsibilities, many professors maintain relationships with foundations, work with community groups, and make themselves available as experts to the media. In the whirlwind of professional life today, successful writing clearly depends on the skillful management of attention as much as the quality of insight or research. I wonder if it is harder than ever now to be a good steward of the finite resource that is our attention.

Winifred Gallagher’s recent exploration of psychological research on this topic, Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life (Penguin Press, 2009), relays information with interesting implications for academics. Multitasking doesn’t work, particularly for cognitively demanding activities like research and writing. Uninterrupted focus for substantial periods remains vital to accomplishing anything requiring synthesis, insight, and articulation.

The good news is that most of us actually are not suffering from the attention-deficit disorder that we fear may soon render us unable to find our way home from the library. If we disconnect from our electronic devices and stubbornly set aside regular times to focus, our shriveled capacity for concentration will once again unfurl and flourish. Even better news is that our attention functions most productively in relatively small windows of time, like an hour and a half. After 90 minutes, we need a change of focus to keep the quality of our attention high.

The article “Attention, Please! Your Book Is Calling” is available on line to subscribers. Emory University’s Author Development Program in the Center for Faculty Development and Excellence is worth visiting.

U Iowa Conference: Writing and the Art of Medicine

On April 28 to 30, 2010, the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine will host The 4th Annual Examined Life: Writing and the Art of Medicine, a three-day conference exploring the intersections of writing, medicine and medical education. Our featured presenters this year include:

  •  Poet Marvin Bell,
  •  Iowa Writers’ Workshop Director Lan Samantha Chang,
  •  Author and Professor of Clinical Pediatrics Sayantani DasGupta,
  •  University of Iowa Professor of Voice and Opera Singer Stephen Swanson, and
  •  University of Iowa Professor of Composition and Director of the Center for New Music David Gompper.

The program and registration can be found at http://www.medicine.uiowa.edu/osac/examinedlife .

Conference: Writing & Wellness Connections

THE WELLNESS & Writing Connections Conference brings together writers and professionals who see therapeutic value in writing, including personal journals, creative nonfiction, memoir, fiction, drama, and poetry. Inquire about opportunities for a book exhibit and visual art displays. For more information contact John Evans (jevans@aiuniv.edu) or visit our Web site at www.wellnessandwritingconnections.com.
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