CFP: Medical(ized) Bodies in the German-Speaking World

Kristen Ann Ehrenberger's picture

“Medical(ized) Bodies in the German-Speaking World”
Special issue of Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies
Edited by Kristen Ann Ehrenberger and Alys X. George


What do bodies mean in the medical realm? How is the messy reality of a (mal)functioning, suffering, birthing, or dying body represented in texts and images? Does lay knowledge pick up where scientific knowing ends? How do technologies old, new, and imagined contract or expand the embodied human experience? 

In the midst of a raging global pandemic, this special issue of Seminar seeks to contextualize and problematize medical(ized) bodies in the German-speaking world, which, though hardly alone in dealing with the pandemic, has an especially rich, at times troubled, medical history and a solid contemporary reputation. The Charité in Berlin and the Allgemeines Krankenhaus in Vienna, along with countless other hospitals, clinics, spa towns, and sanatoria, have attracted patients, researchers, practitioners, and students for centuries. From Albrecht von Haller, the “father of modern physiology,” to Rudolf Virchow, the “father of modern pathology,” and from Ignaz Semmelweis, whose pioneering antiseptic procedures revolutionized health sanitation, to Sebastian Kneipp, whose holistic health concepts laid the foundations for hydrotherapy and naturopathy: the German-speaking world has long been at the cutting edge of medical advances. These, in turn––and above all the bodies at their center––, have found expression in cultural production by writers such as Thomas Mann and Thomas Bernhard, and visual artists such as Hermann Heller and Annegret Soltau. Medical(ized) bodies have been fraught subjects in darker chapters of the German-speaking world’s histories, including National Socialist medical experiments, a lack of bodily autonomy under East German socialism, and the fact that injured American soldiers who die at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center frequently donate organs to Germans on long waiting lists. This special issue of Seminar will highlight the centrality of medical(ized) bodies in the German-speaking world across a range of disciplines and historical epochs.

We are interested in gathering a genuinely interdisciplinary collection of essays from (art) history, literary studies/Germanistik, visual and material culture, cultural studies, medical history, and body studies, as these relate to healthy, sick, and healing bodies from the early modern era to the present. This cross-disciplinarity––as well as the impulse behind the special issue––emerged from the newly founded German Studies Association Body Studies Network, which we are seeking to expand. 

Potential topics include but are not limited to:
-texts written by doctors and/or patients (e.g., “sick lit”)
-comparison of body concepts between mainstream Schulmedizin and alternative schools of thought such as homeopathy or naturopathy
-case studies of the healer-patient relationship from either perspective, or a third-party point of view
-fictional representations of patients’ bodies in clinical contexts 
-exploration of the effects of faith, the environment, and/or therapeutics on bodies, whether miracle healing, spas, home remedies, or pharmaceuticals
-(auto)biographies of healers, nurses, doctors, quacks, and other “medical” bodies
-physician-writers from German, Austrian/Habsburg, and Swiss contexts, including, but not limited to, Albrecht von Haller, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (honorary MD), Friedrich Schiller, Georg Büchner, Arthur Schnitzler, Alfred Döblin, Gottfried Benn, Ernst Weiss, Charlotte Wolff, and Marie Frischauf-Pappenheim
-visual representations of subjects’ bodies in medical illustration, photography, film, portraiture, and scientific preparations, including collections such as the Prinzhorn Sammlung, German Hygiene Museum in Dresden, the Josephinum and “Narrenturm” in Vienna, or university collections
-surgically altered bodies and adaptive technologies, such as prostheses
-new appreciation for patients’ bodies through the lens of race, gender, age, or (dis)ability

Please submit a 300-word abstract and a brief bio to Kristen Ehrenberger (ehrenbergerkaATupmcDOTedu) and Alys George (alysgeorgeATgmailDOTcom) by April 15, 2021. Submissions in English, German, or French are welcome, and black-and-white images are encouraged (authors are responsible for securing all necessary rights). Prospective contributors will be notified by May 15, 2021. The deadline for draft manuscripts will be November 30, 2021 and May 2022 for revised, final manuscripts. Each 6,000–8,000-word contribution will undergo rigorous double-blind peer review before publication of the special issue in early 2023.