‘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, 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.