CFP: Dissecting the Page: Medical Paratexts Conference, University of Glasgow

Dissecting the Page: Medical Paratexts

Sir Alwyn Williams Building, Lilybank Gardens

University of Glasgow, G12 8QQ

9am-6pm, Friday 11 September 2015


This interdisciplinary conference draws together two emerging and complementary areas of research in the medical humanities: book history (as it pertains to medical texts), and the study of medical paratexts. We understand paratext as the apparatus of graphic communication: title pages, prefaces, illustrations, marginalia, and publishing details which act as mediators between text and reader. Discussing the development of medical paratexts across scribal, print and digital media, from the medieval period to the twenty-first century, the conference will take place on Friday 11 September 2015 at the University of Glasgow.

From Christina Lee and Freya Harrison’s discovery of the MRSA-combatting properties of an Anglo-Saxon recipe, to the increasing popularity of Ian Williams’ Graphic Medicine as a teaching tool for medical students, current research into the intersections between medicine, text, and image is producing dynamic and unexpected results (Thorpe: 2015; Taavitsainen: 2010; Couser: 2009; Cioffi: 2009; Díaz-Vera: 2009). With this conference, our keynote speakers will encompass collections-based approaches to medical humanities research (Prof. Jeremy Smith); the use of modern medical knowledge to inform medieval material research (Dr Deborah Thorpe); and creative approaches to medical humanities and contemporary medical practice. Recent years have seen several conferences and publications on paratextual research, and a range of events orientated around literature and medicine, but there is little crossover between the two fields. We propose that the breadth of research into medical book history in the medieval and early-modern period will prompt productive and innovative overlaps with work on modern medical paratexts and graphic novels. By focusing exclusively on medical paratexts, our aim is to establish an interdisciplinary network of scholars interested in graphic communication and medical practice. In addition to our keynote speakers and roundtable discussion, Glasgow’s Special Collections department have agreed to curate a display of medical marvels, medieval to modern, to coincide with the conference.

We are now looking for academics, artists, and medical professionals of all levels, periods, and fields to present their papers and to participate in the discussions that this conference aims to facilitate. Successful abstracts will be pre-circulated on the conference website and associated Twitter feed in advance of the conference. There are two travel bursaries available for postgraduate and/or ECR presenters; the recipients of these grants will be asked to write a short reflection on the conference, which will be published on the MHRC blog and the conference website. We also intend to publish an edited collection, to which conference speakers will be invited to contribute. 

We invite papers on topics that include (but are not limited to):

  • the role of the medical preface
  • graphic medicine in popular culture
  • medicine, illness, and/or disability and graphic novels
  • the development and role of medical (and medicalised) illustrations
  • the advertising and placement of texts depicting medicine/illness/disability
  • complex publications: overlaps between literature, art, theology, and medicine
  • the development of paratext in medical texts from script to print
  • the use and readers of medical texts
  • auto/biography and medicine

Please email an abstract of up to 300 words and a short bio to the conference organisers ( by Thursday 30th July. If you wish to be considered for one of the PG/ECR bursaries, please email us for an application form and submit it with your abstract and bio. We will contact all respondents on the outcome of their proposal by Friday 7th August. Thanks to funding from the Wellcome Trust, this conference will be free to attend.

The conference venue, the Sir Alwyn Williams Building, is fully accessible. If you have any questions, please email the organising committee (Dr Hannah Tweed, Dr Diane Scott, and Dr Johanna Green) at, or contact us via @ParatextMatters.


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