CfP: Medical Humanities in German Studies - Nov. 15

Charles Vannette Discussion


We invite abstracts of up to 500 words for a planned edited volume on the medical humanities in German studies. Scholars from the areas of literature, history, and cultural studies are encouraged to participate. We have received interest in this project from the editors of a new series on the medical humanities, and in order to reach the widest audience possible, we ask that abstracts and future contributions be written in English. 

‘Medical humanities’ is an evolving term that seems to change with each scholar and each approach. Originally, the field was directed at medical students. The humanities, particularly in the forms of history, literature, the arts, and philosophy, were integrated into medical programs to educate and prepare ethically minded health practitioners. The path was relatively one-directional, however, with humanistic study employed in the service of medical training. 

Recent years have seen a shift, as scholars in the humanities have become increasingly interested in issues of health. The COVID-19 pandemic will leave an indelible mark on our culture and only underscores how topical and significant these discussions will be moving forward within our fields. This impact can be seen in the richness of areas like disability studies, body studies, cognitive studies, and the intersection of health and policy, among others. In addition to incorporating aesthetic or ethical dimensions into discussions surrounding medicine, the medical humanities have also played an important role in providing access to these discussions to traditionally underrepresented peoples, groups, and perspectives. Overall, the medical humanities have done important work in bridging the STEM-Humanities gap. 

The medical humanities play a particularly important role in German studies. Our understanding of the wars of the twentieth century, of the Holocaust, and of the development of the modern health care system is expanded by literary and historical investigation. So, too, can our hermeneutic methods evolve through the adoption of approaches developed by health professionals. The medical humanities encompass the works of important Germanic historical figures, authors, film makers, and scientists. They are interested in representations of illness and the body in literature, art, film, politics, or exhibition. They likewise engage methodology and challenge both humanistic and medical dogma. The medical humanities are fluid.

The proposed volume will interrogate the medical humanities in German studies. How are the medical humanities employed across the breadth of our disciplines? How has this field developed over time and which approaches are expanding scholarship today? What do these discussions reveal about the culture and history of the German-speaking world? Which medical models translate into hermeneutic experiments, and how does this change the way in which we interpret? How has COVID-19 impacted this field, or the cultures of investigation? 

The goal of the collection is to underscore and celebrate the interdisciplinarity of the medical humanities and to embrace the breadth of German studies. Contributions are encouraged from all corners of German studies and the volume plans to integrate the scholarship of historians, literary scholars, film scholars, and the work of others who may identify with our field. Our goal for the volume is to demonstrate the many ways that research approaches in the medical humanities can significantly reframe or shed new light on the history, culture, language, literature, and film of the Germanophone  world. 

Please email an English abstract of no more than 500 words and a brief one-paragraph biography to the volume editors listed below. Questions can also be directed to individuals in this list. The due date for abstracts is: November 15, 2021

Charles Vannette (

Heather Perry (

Kristen Hetrick (


Provisional Plans:

Below are some provisional plans for the collection, which may be subject to later alteration.

  • Length: aim for 6,000-8,000 words. A more specific length will be available once we have assessed the abstracts and have formulated the list of contributors. 
  • Deadline: a tentative deadline for the initial draft of the chapter is Aug. 15th 2022.  We want to allow for the fact that some scholars may be traveling to Europe for long-delayed research in the 2022 summer. 

Potential topics and approaches may include, but are not limited to: 


Body studies

Cognitive studies

Concepts of degeneration and death

Disability studies

Health and policy

Health and psychology

Health in literature and film

History of medicine and the politics of public health 

Illness and creativity

Issues of sexuality

Maternity, birth, new life

Medical ethics

Medical practice and issues of intersectionality

Mental health

Metaphors of contagion

Representations of health and disease

Trauma studies