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Workshop: Illnesses: The Antitypes of Health

Illnesses: The Antitypes of Health

Graduate Student Workshop

Reader Abstracts of Participants

Confirmed Keynotes:
Prof. Dr. Ekaterini Kepetzis (Universität zu Köln)
Prof. Dr. Irina Metzler (Swansea University)
Dr. Véronique Sina (Universität zu Köln)

The fascination with representations of physical illness as a source of disgust, pleasure, and fear of contagion has been a constant theme in the history of art, as well as a major focus of interdisciplinary academic research. Illness has appeared as an artistic motif in every epoch and has shaped the way artists have understood themselves and their work. Moreover, it has served as a category for evaluating art and artists alike. Thinkers as different as Paul Julius Möbius (1898), Karl Jaspers (1926), and, more recently, Paul Barolsky (1993) have linked disease patterns with art using neuropathological, linguistic, and social history. Likewise, efforts to diagnose illness – El Greco’s eye disease, the ailments of Hölderlin, Van Gogh and Nietzsche – or to designate outsider art have shown how instances of purported malady can generate surprising levels of creativity. 

Symptoms of disease, whether personal or pandemic, also figure in the larger field of tension between the visible and the invisible, and between scientific explanation and superstition. 

The talks and discussions at the graduate student workshop will examine the antitypes of health in all their variety, from the ancient epidemics and pests in the Middle Ages to the disfigurements of syphilis, cholera outbreaks, the diagnosis of mental illnesses in the 19th century, and postmodern theories of illness.

Meike Eiberger / Tobias Linden