ESSWE home

ESSWE online: event details

Literature, Science and Medicine in the Medieval and Early Modern Periods

  • 2012-07-27
  • 2012-07-29
  • Lausanne, Switzerland
Historians of medicine and science have long understood the cultural constructedness of concepts such as health and disease, nature, ecology and the environment. And for their part, literary scholars are very familiar with the medical and scientific topoi, images and metaphors which permeate medieval and early modern literary texts. But until recently, there has been little dialogue across disciplines which could genuinely inter-illuminate these several and separate fields of knowledge. This conference aims to contribute to the recent, burgeoning interest in interdisciplinary approaches to literature, science and medicine, as well as to stimulate new conversations and discoveries amongst scholars who may not have explored such an approach before.

Amongst our invited speakers, we are delighted to welcome the novelist and medical doctor Eric Masserey, whose recent prize-winning novel, Retour aux Indes, recounts the adventures of a clerk of the renowned early modern medical practitioner, Amatus Lucitanus. Dr Masserey will discuss his novel, in conversation with the distinguished polymath Professor Vincent Barras who is, amongst other things, a historian of medicine and a modern music critic. Together they will re-enact the famous disputatio that took place in the time of Lusitanus on the subject of the circulation of blood.

In the spirit of this dialogue, we welcome proposals for papers which are in themselves interdisciplinary, or which, while situated in a particular discipline, invite fruitful comparison with either of the other two disciplines represented at this conference. All proposals should pertain to the literature, science and/or medicine of the medieval or early modern periods, although this does not exclude consideration of the prehistory, or legacy, of medieval and early modern texts. Our aim is to better understand how these three fields of knowledge overlapped and hybridized in the past, for in our own age of hyper-specialisation we have greater than ever need to explore and recall the many ways in which these fields once occupied a common ground.

In particular, we invite proposals on any of the following topics:

• authority in literature, science or medicine
• theories of creativity
• medicine and literature
• the body
• inwardness and introspection
• disease and healing
• religion and medical practice
• alchemy and magic
• ecology, botany and nature
• cosmology
• religion and science
• early science fiction
• heteroglossic accounts of science or medicine
• myths, metaphors and topoi of science or medicine
• uses of literary techniques in scientific or medical documents
• literary treatment of scientific figures
• specific authors
• literary critiques of science or medicine
• popular science writing
• science and desire
• techne and technology

Guest speakers include:

Professor Vincent Barras (Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois and University of Lausanne). Author of ‘Neurosciences et médecine’ in Revue d'histoire des sciences, and with F Panese, of ‘ L'utopie médicale de la réanimation des corps’ in Mouvements: sociétés, politique, culture.
Dr Margaret Healy (Co-Director of the Centre for Early Modern Studies, University of Sussex). Author of Fictions of Disease in Early Modern England: Bodies, Plagues and Politics.
Dr Anthony Hunt (St Peter’s College, University of Oxford). Author of The Medieval Surgery.
Professor Carole Rawcliffe (University of East Anglia). History of Parliament Trust (1979-92); Senior Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at UEA (1992-7). Author of Leprosy in Medieval England.
Professor Jennifer Richards (University of Newcastle). Author of Rhetoric and Courtliness in Early Modern Literature, and editor of Early Modern Civil Discourses.
Professor Heinrich von Staden (Institute of Advanced Study, Princeton University). Author of Herophilus: The Art of Medicine in Early Alexandria.

Dr Eric Masserey (Medecin cantonal, Service de la santé publique, Lausanne). Author of Le retour aux Indes, Le sommeil séfarade, and Une si belle ignorance (généalogies).

Conference organisers : Professors Denis Renevey and Rachel Falconer (English Department, University of Lausanne)

Please submit a proposal of not more than 300 words, including your name, title and institutional affiliation (where relevant) and a brief bio sketch (no more than 100 words), by 15 November 2011.

Proposals for full panels are very welcome. These should include three proposed speakers, including, or in addition to, a chair and/or a respondent. Individual papers will be grouped with two others. Parallel sessions will last an hour and a half, which means that papers should be no longer than 20 minutes to leave sufficient time for discussion. The proposals should be submitted electronically on the conference website. Click HERE.

A selection of papers from the conference will be published in SPELL (Swiss Papers in English Language and Literature). For more information on SAMEMES and how to become a member, please consult SAMEMES official web page at

For the conference organizers,

Rachel Falconer ( )
Denis Renevey ( )

For further information check the conference homepage at

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software