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Research

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Publication details for Professor Felicity Callard

Callard, Felicity (2016). Afterword: Mind, imagination, affect. In The Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities. Whitehead, Anne, Woods, Angela, Atkinson, Sarah, Macnaughton, Jane & Richards, Jennifer Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. 481-488.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

The eight essays in ‘Mind, Imagination, Affect’ address topoi, phenomena and historical junctures as varied as the prostrate form of an individual being put to death in the US via the necropolitical ritual of lethal injection; the prostrate form of Virginia Woolf that allows her to fashion, while prone with illness and ‘as a “deserter”’ of the ‘army of the upright’, a new relationship with words; the affective piety of Margery Kempe’s copious tears; the dense relationalities that narratives about autistic individuals, their family members and animal assistants unfurl; and Antoine Artaud’s autoscopic, aesthetically realised fantasies in which bodies are eviscerated and suspended mid-air. The differences in these essays’ rhetorical styles, modes of argumentation and ontological commitments are startling – not least because all essays are authored or co-authored by a writer within the humanities (and, more specifically, with at least some affiliation to the disciplines of English literature or philosophy or art history). (This should drive home to us, once again, that we should not allow today’s intense investment in interdisciplinarity, both within the medical humanities and beyond it, to render us impervious to the profound differences in objects of study, accounts of human experience and modes of interpretation produced through intradisciplinary – or intra-humanities – heterogeneity.) We move from the almost plangent tones of Corinne Saunders’s concluding comments, in which she argues that by incorporating medieval worlds into a ‘long cultural perspective’, we, through ‘reading the past, [. . .] more richly read ourselves’; to David Herman’s energetic call for us to consider how a narratology beyond the human might assist with the construction of ‘new, more sustainable individual and collective stories grounded in an expanded sense of the self’s relationality, its situation within wider webs of creatural life’; to Martyn Evans’s insistence on our attending to the wonder provoked by our acknowledgement of ourselves as ‘embodied, experiencing beings’; to Lisa Guenther’s biting question: ‘Is there a meaningful distinction between a botched execution and a proper one? Or must we admit that there is no good way to execute a person?’