CfP: "Conceiving the (Un)quiet Mind: Representations of Mental Health in Literature, Media, and Art" (Virtual Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference, University of Washington, Seattle)

Matthew Childs's picture
Call for Papers
January 15, 2021
Washington, United States
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Cultural History / Studies, Film and Film History, German History / Studies, Humanities

Conceiving the (Un)quiet Mind: Representations of Mental Health in Literature, Media, and Art


"In the Middle Ages and until the Renaissance, man's dispute with madness was a dramatic debate in which be confronted the secret powers of the world; the experience of madness was clouded by images of the Fall and the Will of God, of the Beast and the Metamorphosis, and of all the marvelous secrets of Knowledge. In our era, the experience of madness remains silent in the composure of a knowledge which, knowing too much about madness, forgets it."

- Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization, xii 

The omnipresence and endurance of the COVID-19 epidemic, a tense election in the United States, and the inevitable isolation of distance working are all factors currently exacerbating the already too often unaddressed issue of mental health around the globe. This conference will be an opportunity to focus attention on issues surrounding mental health specifically through, or within, the broad category of literature, media, and art in general.

Depictions of characters dealing with mental health conditions can be found throughout history, including such works as Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck and Lenz , Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher,” and Erasmus of Rotterdam’s In Praise of Folly to name but a few. While the work of theorists like Sigmund Freud and Michel Foucault strove to bring newfound clarity and precision to the terms and categorizations of psychology, authors and content creators have simultaneously adapted or reacted to these developments, radically changing the portrayal of mental health over time. Contemporary media such as Crazy Exgirlfriend (2015–2019), Veronica Mars (2004–2019), Babylon Berlin (2017–Present) , and Joker (2019) deal specifically and sympathetically with mental illness, generating a nuanced understanding of someone who experiences mental health conditions.

Questions to consider on this topics could include, but are not restricted to the following:

● How is mental health represented and discussed today?

● How has our understanding of the causes of and treatments for psychological conditions changed over time? What does this tell us about how knowledge of mental health is constructed?

● Which unique qualities does each form of representation (literature, art, media) bear in representing mental health?

● In which ways are understandings of mental health culturally contingent?

● How is mental health objectively perceived and received? How is it subjectively expressed in art, literature, and media?

● How is art, literature, and media used in the treatment and care of mental health?

● How does the discourse on mental health affect us?

Additional topics may include:

● Un/translatability of Psychological Subjectivity

● Misrepresentations of Mental Illness

● Social Exclusion and Marginalization

● Isolation

● Addiction

● Absurdity

● Breakdown and Delusion

● Violence

● Suicide and/or Self-Harm

In line with other virtual conferences, participants will be asked to provide a finished draft of their submission as well as a video/audio recording of no more than twenty minutes in length three weeks prior to the conference. Attendees and participants will be asked to read and/or listen to submissions prior to the conference dates. Synchronous meetings will be used for discussions only. To that end, we are also seeking participants who may be willing to act as moderators or commentators for other panels. Be sure to state your interest in your submission.

Please send an abstract, describing your paper in 250–300 words, and a short bio to by January 15th.

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