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Narratives of Life, Health and Illness

  • Wellcome Collection 183 Camden Road London, England, NW1 2BE United Kingdom (map)

Narratives of Life, Health and Illness

27 September 2019, 10.30am – 4.30pm

Wellcome Collection, 183 Euston Rd, London NW1 2BE

How can illness narratives reflect a more authentic experience of chronic illness that disrupts the linearity of storytelling?

How should we interpret the narratives portrayed in paintings produced by people inside psychiatric institutions?

How do medical dialogues compare to a patient’s lived-experiences?

With access to unique materials stored within the Wellcome Collection and an interactive zine workshop, this ECR workshop will seek to provide an insight into the above questions. Drawing from fields including medicine, psychiatry, creative writing, literature, philosophy and the visual arts, we will bring an interdisciplinary approach to examining illness narratives from the archive.

The intended audience for the training are Early Career Researchers with an interest in the art and humanities, 6 space will be given to current CHASE funded students and 6 spaces will be given to those who are not funded by CHASE but are registered at a CHASE institution. Attendees do not need prior knowledge or skills, however an interest in the medical humanities would be beneficial.

Narratives of Life, Health and Illness Indicative Programme

10-10.30am Coffee & Registration

10.30-10.45am Introduction: Brief overview of the day & aims of the workshop

10.45 – 11.45am Session 1 – Non-linear Narratives of Sickness: Jane Hartshorn

A short presentation on the genre of the illness narrative. Using examples of artist books from the collection, we will explore alternative ways of thinking and communicating about chronic illness which deviate from the standard, or traditional, ‘survivorhood’ narrative. There will be an opportunity for attendees to look at the examples from the collection, followed by a discussion.

11.45 – 12.45pm      Session 2 – What narratives are portrayed in the paintings of the Adamson Collection?: Daniel Shipsides

The Adamson Collection is a collection of artworks, currently stored at the Wellcome Library, that were produced by people who lived in Netherne Psychiatric Hospital between 1946 and 1981. In this session we will explore the issues that arise when attempting to interpret the narratives of these paintings. We will explore questions including: Do these pictures portray narratives of the patient experience? Do these pictures portray narratives of mental disorder (or mental distress)? And do these pictures portray narratives of mental health (or recovery)?  The session will begin with a short introductory talk, before which we will spend some time viewing the paintings, and then regroup for a discussion.

12.45 – 1.45pm Lunch

1.45– 2.45pm Session 3 -–Defining Lived-Experiences of Illness: Francesca Govia (University of Essex)

How do we define an illness? In this session participants will first be provided with current diagnostic criteria for certain illnesses ranging from conditions such as bi-polar to endometriosis. In groups of 3-4 participants will be asked to explore the language used in each criterion in order to identify how diagnostic criteria can be influenced by political, historical and social contexts. Participants will then be provided with a range of ‘zines’, artworks and texts that document the lived experiences of the conditions to see how their understandings correlate with medical dialogues. This session will close with a comparison of the texts.

2.45pm – 3pm  Coffee

3 – 4pm  Zine workshop with Zara Carpenter

4-4.30pm Q&A and closing remarks