Malady and Mortality:
Illness, Disease and Death: Literary and Visual Culture Conference
Falmouth University, Cornwall
19-20th September 2013
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Day One: Thursday 19th September 2013
|11:00-11:30||Conference Registration and Tea / Coffee||AIR Lounge, Upper Floor,
|11:30- 12:30||WelcomePlenary Lecture – Professor Alan Bleakley, Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry:
‘First, do no harm’: Medicine’s Crooked Timber
|Exchange Lecture Theatre,Penryn Campus,
|13:15-14:00||Session One: Aesthetics, Life and the Sick Body IChair: Sian Bonnell
Nikki Salkeld and Ashley Rudolph: Grief and Mourning. The MOTH PROJECT – An Ethnographical Approach to Practice Based Research
Fiona Johnstone: Eroticizing Illness: Mark’s Morrisroe’s Photographic Self-Portraits
|Exchange Lecture Theatre|
|14:00-15:00||Session Two: Aesthetics, Life and the Sick Body IIChair: Sian Bonnell
Joanne ‘Bob’ Whalley: The Unborn Undead – A Journey With a Bi-Fold Body
Steven Wilson, “My Existence is Effectively Over”: The Syphilis Autopathography in C19th France
Sarah Arnold: Urban Decay Photography and Film: Fetishism and the Apocalyptic Imagination
|Exchange Lecture Theatre|
|15:00-15:30||Tea / Coffee||The Social Street,The Exchange
|Session Three (A): Mortality and the EverydayChair: Julia Kennedy
Lucy Willow: Transience –Exploring the Relationship between Ephemerality, Mourning and Loss through Dust and Place
Lorna Warren and Julie Ellis: Everyday Lives of Dying People
Mark R. McDermott & M-O. Levasseur: The Development of the Multidimensional Mortality Awareness Measure (MMAM)
|Session Three (B): Invalidism and NeurastheniaChair: Nicola Coplin
Killing me Softly -Female Invalidism and the Cult of True Womanhood in Ellen Glasgow’s The Miller of Old Church
Sreemoyee Roy Chowdhury: Neurasthenia, Transcorporeality and Sue Bridehead: The “Strange and Unwelcome Product of Exhaustion”
|(A) Exchange Lecture Theatre
(B) AIR Sandpit (ground floor, AIR Building)
|16:30-17:30||Session Four (A): Medicine and NarrativeChair: Helen Thomas
Dr Briege Casey: Student Nurses’ Perceptions of Medicalised and Suffering Bodies as Expressed through their Artwork
Anne Taylor and Aled Picton: Medical Students, Emotional Challenges and Creative Writing
Lionel Warner: Disability, Teaching Students and Whose Life is it Anyway?
|Session Four (B): Autopathography and Personal EncountersChair: Kingsley Marshall
Davina Kirkpatrick: Embodied Absence and Evoking the Ancestors – a Personal and Collaborative Encounter
Julia Kennedy: In our Blood: Autopathography and Narrative Flows in Online Networks for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Anna Sadler: ‘Uncertainty’ from a Hospital Bed
|(A) Exchange Lecture Theatre
(B) AIR Sandpit
|17:45-18:15||Plenary Lecture Two – Professor Tony Walter, Centre for Death, University of Bath: “Imagining the Dead as Angels”||Exchange Lecture Theatre|
|20:00-22:00||Conference Dinner, The Greenbank Hotel||The Greenbank Hotel, Falmouth|
Day Two: Friday 20th September 2013
|09:30-10:00||RegistrationTea/ Coffee||AIR Lounge|
|10:00-11:00||Session Five (A): Identity and Literary NarrativeChair: Helen Thomas
Marilena Parlati: ‘Treble Exposure’- Fissured Memory in Eva Figes’ Fiction
Franziska E. Kohlt: Fantastic Visions of
Dying Children in Victorian Britain
Chrisy Dennis: ‘See Robinson Forget her State, and Move, On Crutches Tow’rds the Grave’: Mary Robinson, the Press and Representations of the Body
|Session Five (B): Objects, Imaging, Pain and Patient NarrativeChair: Julia Kennedy
Sue M. Porter and Ann Rippin: Warming The Method: Bringing Heart into Our Research through the Use of Imaging
Martin Hubbard: Pain In The Neck: An Anatomy Lesson on Non specific Pain.
Annastasia Maksymluk: Patient Identity and Narrative
|(A) Exchange Lecture Theatre
(B) AIR Sandpit
|11:00-11:30||Tea / Coffee||Air Lounge|
|11:30-12:30||Session Six (A): Performance and PlaceChair: Kingsley Marshall
Alex Murdin: Death in Environmental Art – Self-Eradication to Mass Mortality
Montse Morcate and Rebeca Pardo: Grief, Illness and Death in Contemporary Photography
Kerry Jones: Visual and Virtual Memorialisation Following Stillbirth and Neonatal Death
|Session Six (B): Old Age, Illness and PowerChair: Helen Thomas
Kym Martindale: ‘Out of Place in Eternity’: Doing Time in the Poetry of Frances Bellerby
Rebecca Edgerley: Death Becomes Her? Old Age, Gender, and Power in Norse Society
Jessica Monaghan: Power in Weakness: Feigned Illness as the Weapon of Women in C18th Literature
|(A) Exchange Lecture Theatre
(B) AIR Sandpit
|13:30-14:30||Session Seven:Funerals, Film and TV
Chair: Rebecca Lloyd
Beccy Collings: Funny as a Funeral: Depictions of Grief and Mourning in British Dark Comedy Television.
David Jackson: Loss, War and Film – Seven Days Down South
|Exchange Lecture Theatre|
|14:30-15:15||Plenary Lecture Three – Dr Michele Aaron, Film Dept., University of Birmingham: ‘Watching Others Die: Spectatorship and the (Racialised) Ethics of Being Moved’
|Exchange Lecture Theatre|
|15:15-15:45||Tea / Coffee||The Social Street,The Exchange|
Film & Digital Media, Falmouth University
Urban Decay Photography and Film: Fetishism and the Apocalyptic Imagination
“To take a picture is to have an interest in things as they are, in the status quo remaining unchanged…, to be in complicity with whatever makes a subject interesting, worth photographing- including, when that is the interest, another person’s pain or misfortune.” (Sontag, On Photography)
There is a scene in the documentary film Detropia (Ewing, Grady, 2012) in which two young Swiss tourists chat with a local Detroit woman in a coffee shop. She asks them about the reason for their visit to Detroit and is visibly insulted when they explain their fascination with the decay of the city. As much as the filmmakers stress the urgency for urban regeneration they end up being complicit in the fetishization of Detroit’s urban death. Such cities and urban spaces have become real-life stand-ins for the apocalyptic imagination already nurtured in broader arts and media. The fascination with the ruins of contemporary culture and the proliferation of what is sometimes referred to as ‘ruin porn’ photography, point towards Sontag’s cautious warning. To capture spaces as they are is as much to want them to remain as such, if not in reality, certainly in the social imagination. The aesthetics of apocalypse found is such films and photography is undoubtedly a politicised reflection of the malaise produced in the wake of post-Industrial, capitalist decline. In this paper, however, I suggest that the photographer’s fascination with such places instead fixes such spaces firmly in a particular moment of death. The apocalyptic imagination, I argue, asks not for renewal and revitalisation but for embalmment and annihilation.
Dr Briege Casey
School of Nursing and Human Sciences Dublin City University, Dublin.
Student Nurses’ Perceptions of Medicalised and Suffering Bodies as Expressed Through Their Artwork
This presentation is concerned with the perceptions of undergraduate student nurses regarding the bodies of people in their care. These perceptions and experiences were configured, explored and dialogued through student art and creative work produced while undertaking a Nursing Humanities module. The presentation is derived from an ethnographic research study which involved analysis of visual, poetic, dramaturgic, story telling performances, group discussions, and researcher field notes as students’ engaged with this arts-based process. In the presentation, students’ evocative understandings (Richardson 2000) concerning the ill and suffering bodies of people in care will be re-presented through images and analysis of their artwork. In particular, student reflections on body access/ownership, body mystery/knowledge and the body in pain/disability/illness will be explored. In some instances students also artfully encounter the frailty and suffering of their own bodies. The capacities of arts-based /humanities approaches as a means, for these students, of contemplating body corporeality and vulnerability will also be demonstrated and discussed.
Film and Television Studies at the University of East Anglia
Funny as a Funeral: Depictions of Grief and Mourning in British Dark Comedy Television.
This paper examines the ways in which recent dark comedy television programmes have made use of deathbed and funeral scenes as sites of subversive humour, particularly through visual joking and the presentation of ‘unusual’ behaviour by grieving relatives and friends. Such depictions contrast strongly with those found elsewhere on television, throwing into relief the kinds of behaviours conventionally associated with these events, and as such may be seen to create humour not at the expense of the dead, but at the attitudes of the living towards death and the performance of grief. Analysing funeral and deathbed scenes from the series Psychoville (BBC 2, 2011) and Nighty Night (BBC Three, 2004), amongst others, in light of Freudian and Bakhtinian ideas surrounding humour, death and the dead, the paper forwards the idea that the comic affect in such moments may not only derive from the depiction of taboo-breaking behaviour that challenges conventional notions of appropriate conduct around death, but also through offering viewers the opportunity to participate – with laughter – in such behaviour themselves.
English and Writing, Falmouth University
‘See Robinson Forget her State, and Move, On Crutches Tow’rds the Grave’: Mary Robinson, the Press and Representations of the Body.
During the last two decades of the eighteenth century, Mary Robinson, actress, courtesan, poet, novelist and polemicist was one of the most celebrated and derided of women. There was no detail of her life that was too insignificant to report; including health matters. Dog bites, accidents in carriages, minor ailments and visits to spas to take the waters were all reported with zeal. However, on a journey to Dover in 783 to catch up with her lover, Robinson became ill after an ‘imprudent exposure to the night air when travelling’. It is likely that Robinson had a miscarriage and became ill with rheumatic fever which would cause her eventual paralysis. The speculation and gossip produced a range of reactions from sympathy to blame for her ‘love of gaiety’ and even hostility due to her former liaisons with Prince George and men such as Charles James Fox and Lord Malden. Therefore, using a New Historicist approach, this paper examines the representations of Robinson’s body in light of the political upheaval in the 1780s.
 William Gifford, The Baviad: A Paraphrastic Imitation of the First Satire of Persius (London: R. Faulder 1791), p. 23.
Department of English, Universitat de Lleida, Catalunya, Spain
Killing me Softly: Female Invalidism and the Cult of True Womanhood in Ellen Glasgow’s The Miller of Old Church
Invalidism as a symbol of women’s powerless position in Victorian America and their struggle for self-definition constitute a major theme in the fiction of the Virginia writer Ellen Glasgow (Richmond, 1873-1945). Glasgow explores the cult of invalidism as a metaphor to reveal the mechanisms of patriarchy: her novels warn against adhering to its values, since women are moulded to become paragons of extreme selflessness and ultimately reduced to virtual inexistence. Invalidism, illness, and madness appear in her novel The Miller of Old Church (1911) both as a physical or mental condition and also as a powerful metaphor of women’s situation, as the self-assertive protagonist Molly Merryweather is surrounded by invalid as well as by invalidated women. Their position of invisibility under patriarchy makes them uncanny mirrors of the self Molly could become if she adhered to the Victorian code of femininity and its adjoining doctrine of female self-effacement. Glasgow’s own lifelong struggle with illness and her concern for women’s plight under Victorian strictures perhaps make this image more evident, since she probably sensed invalidism as a threat to her professional achievements, while she denounced the social mores that defined her philosophy of life as not-valid.
AAT, Falmouth University
Death Becomes Her? Old age, Gender, and Power in Norse Society
Society is disposed to equate old age with the functionless, the peripheral, the undesirable. This paper intends to illustrate how the past might better inform our understanding of what aging means for men, women, and their respective social status. By considering sources related to a particular period in history, I hope to prompt a reassessment of our present ideas about how gender and power are altered as we near the end of the life-cycle. Taking a primarily literary approach, but also with reference to material culture, I will explore how ‘growing old’ in Viking-age society shifted the power struggle between men and women. I consider to what extent old age was perceived as an impairment, by looking at how the life-cycle affected the ‘idealised’ gender performances of characters in the Old Icelandic Sagas, and how, for women in particular, the older body could command heightened honour and respect. The paper will also look at how conceptions about age and gender were internalised by Viking-age society and played out in their treatment of the dead, by comparing the material evidence found in male and female burials, both young and old.
Graphic Design, Falmouth University
Pain In The Neck: An Anatomy Lesson on non specific pain. A performed lecture on the persistence of mind/body dualism in understanding pain.
How real is pain? If we suffer pain we are in no doubt that we suffer. The WHO defines pain as an unpleasant subjective experience that is perceived as located in the body, and which can only be measured subjectively. What does this mean? What other sorts of maladies are only measured by report? Is pain an hallucination? Non specific pain is the predominant symptom for consulting non evidence based complementary therapists, and the most responsive to the placebo effect. If a patient claims to have benefited from a therapy, could they be mistaken? The Anataomy Lesson draws on the Anatomy Lesson of Dr Tulp by Rembrandt. In the painting men examine a dead man. The main consumers of complementary medicine are middle aged, middle class, educated women. What sort of spectacle of the body is implied, what ideologies of holism, balance and energy flows are imagined?
Martin Hubbard practices Trigger Point myofascial release, an evidence informed bodywork practice that claims that many diagnoses of non specific pain are misdiagnosed and caused by untreated trigger points. One of the determining features of trigger points is that they refer pain in predictable patterns. So a pain in the neck is often not a pain in the neck.
Veteran to Veteran (Turning It Around)
Loss, War and Film – Seven Days Down South
Three Days Down South: A Story of loss is taken from my doctoral dissertation, a film, called Seven Days Down South a War story. This film offers an autoethnographical performance narrative that recreates and retells my return to the Falklands islands 25 years after fighting in the Falklands conflict. It is multimodal and communicates in and across a range of semiotic modes. I have used photographic, audio, written and video data from the pilgrimage and artefacts of memory in the form of photographs, diary entries, letters, and video from previous and recent times. This forms the basis of the multimodal approach to documentation that I have used and are the foundations of meaning making. The video explores the social, cultural and individual expressions of such an experience. It explores the memories, emotions and embodiments of my experience of war and returning to a place of war through my performance and reconnects with loss, sacrifice and the consequential psychological effects of war. My performance is a form of emancipation from the cultural identity scripts that have governed my identity as a war veteran with a mental health disability. It is a performance to unsilence these forgotten events and to articulate those difficult and traumatic memories I have carried since returning from war.
Department of History of Art and Screen Media, Birkbeck, University of London
Eroticizing Illness: Mark’s Morrisroe’s Photographic Self-Portraits
The American artist-photographer Mark Morrisroe (1959-1989) produced almost two thousand known works in a career that lasted barely a decade, interrupted by his death from an AIDS related illness shortly after his thirtieth birthday. Many of these are self-portraits, portraying the artist in a variety of autobiographical guises that include teenage prostitute and drag performance artist. When Morrisroe became ill he continued this practice of self-representation, documenting his physical decline with a series of black and white Polaroids, and with a number of strikingly beautiful hand-tinted prints based on his hospital x-rays. These late works arguably sustain the highly sexualized subject position conveyed by his earlier self-portraits, and reveal ways in which the sick or dying body can be beautiful and even erotic.
Drawing on critical approaches from psychoanalysis, phenomenology, and photographic theory, this paper examines Morrisroe’s late works in terms of the relationship between the body’s visible exterior and invisible interior, the photograph as ‘flesh’, and an erotics of touch located in the photographic print itself.
University of Exeter Medical School, Exeter
Visual and Virtual Memorialisation Following Stillbirth and Neonatal Death
Thanatologists have posited and several studies have shown that visual and virtual memorialisation is a valuable representational tool to define the personhood of a deceased child following stillbirth and neonatal death. Over the last twenty years, hospital bereavement programmes have adopted photography in the protocol of care of bereaved parents. More recently several online forums provide a number of ways in which to memorialise the person who has died. Often set up by the bereaved following a death virtual sites represent ‘Virtual Graveyard’s’, a place where the bereaved can ‘light’ a virtual candle, leave a poem or their story for others to read. Following qualitative research with which 28 men and women in the North West and South West of England, this paper discusses the way in which visual and virtual memorialisation signifies the presence of the baby as part of the family’s biography to the outside world. These well guarded mementoes are more than emotional artefacts; they are critical pieces of evidence in claiming personhood for their child and further provide for parents to re-negotiate their sense of ambivalent status as a bereaved parent and validation of their grief. Acknowledgement: This article presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) for the South West Peninsula. The views expressed in this publication are those of the author and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health for England. Acknowledgment is attributed to parents who took part as respondents in this study and to the University of Bristol who provided the funds in which to undertake the research.
Journalism, Falmouth University
In our Blood: Autopathography and Narrative Flows in Online Networks for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
Often externally invisible, and currently considered incurable, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) occupies several stages from indolent, through progressive, to terminal in some cases. Variable patterns of disease progression position those with the condition in ongoing negotiation with various points on a conceptual continuum between “wellness” and “illness” with no definitive hope of cure. Based on ethnographic work in CLL communities online, this paper presents some of the early findings from a two year project mapping narrative engagement, participation, production and translation surrounding the disease. Such narratives include patient stories, medical research papers, online advice, clinical test results and documents. Diagnosed with CLL myself, I have embodied investment, and my work foregrounds the importance of providing a platform for the voices of those writing about disease experience from the inside. Using autopathographic account alongside observations drawn from around 300 CLL patients online globally, the research maps current issues and experiences for this patient group and their carers and, in doing so, illuminates the evolving phenomenon of e-patienthood in the context of a rapidly evolving biomedical environment. . An object-oriented approach maps ways in which complex scientific research papers, laboratory test results, and the political economy of contemporary medicine intersect with patient stories, observation and advice online. The paper outlines key emerging sites in the current landscape of CLL patients, and considers how they extrapolate to chronic illness experience generally in a digital era. Finally, the work addresses creative approaches to the presentation of complex assemblages of data reflecting the multiplicity of texts and experiences involved in understanding, and living with disease.
Embodied Absence and Evoking the Ancestors – A Personal and Collaborative Encounter
This paper explores how the production of visual artwork and co-created ritual experience weaves a gossamer safety net across the chasm of loss and raises questions – What creative responses can be made that dance between presence and the presence of something absent? How can we negotiate the absence of the physical body? Following Pearson (2007:14): “How does place act as mnemonic?” Central to my practice based research is the use of narrative and the metaphorical to reveal multiple layers of meaning, how they work in relation to what continues to exist and what is missing in the physical world. In setting out to explore relationships between grief and landscapes, I am not seeking to resolve grief by placing it in a landscape – rather I am concerned to explore a process that is both a letting go and a letting be. I want to explore the possibility of holding both remembering and forgetting and of co-creating new re-memberance. There is a dual purpose to creating objects and performance/ritual – it allows both the exploration of the metaphorical and the ephemeral – “the telling of a story when there are no words left to say.” (O’Neill 2001)
Franziska E. Kohlt
“Though I cannot promise to take you home“: Fantastic Visions of
Dying Children in Victorian Britain
The tales of George MacDonald and Charles Kingsley are nowadays considered children’s classics, and are widely still read to or by young children. However, below the surface of a fantastic adventure, lies a darker truth: their protagonists often do not return from their quests, which are, in fact, portrayal of the delirious children’s struggle with death, expeditions to a realm beyond life. From the Victorian reality of child-death, which affected the two authors personally, as well as professionally, they conceived narratives of consolation and explanation, deeply marked by their personal spiritual as well as scientific beliefs. Drawing on the authors’ sermons, theoretical and scientific essays, their correspondences and diaries, as well as contemporary scientific and theological theory, this paper will revisit children’s classics such as MacDonald’s At the Back of the North Wind, “The Golden Key” and Kingsley’s Water-Babies as illness and death-narratives. It will be shown how such a reading illuminates the analysis of other Victorian journeys to wondrous realms, which, inspired by ancient archetypes, and through the narrative use of mental and physical illness, created a type of story, that, despite being distinctly Victorian, is continuously being reworked in many modern tales of suffering children.
Social Work Dept., Middlesex University
This paper describes a process of narrative and visual response undertaken between myself (an academic) whilst assuming a patient identity and the subsequent response to this via engagement with memory undertaken by Andy, my friend (who also assumes a service user identity). Recently, I had an unplanned admission via an Urgent Care Surgical pathway a large N.H.S hospital in the South West. As my illness played out, I considered and reflected upon my experiences.
Whilst assuming a ‘patient’ identity, I was unable to produce text as I was in receipt of intravenous medication. I did not have access to a dictaphone and usage of a mobile telephone was not permitted within the clinical areas I inhabited within the ward. When I was able to leave the ward, I went to the day-room; and utilised narrative to produce an autoethnographic account of my experiences of the patient identity. Immediately after this,I used my Smartphone to produce an image which reflects my embedding in a specific visual narrative and also the wider visual culture influencing this. I circulated this particular image to Andy who has accessed and been in receipt of psychiatric services, and several physical health hospital admissions, over a sustained twenty year period. The image resonated with Andy and provoked a set of responses, partially triggered by memories of patient subjectivity within psychiatric and physical health settings. As a Social Worker, I am interested to explore our shared understandings and consider how our experiences of identity rupture, repair and de/re-stabilisation, may serve to assist health and social care workers, within their practice.
English and Writing, Falmouth University
‘Out of Place in Eternity’: Doing Time in the Poetry of Frances Bellerby
Absolute violence – absolute in the sense of the utter destruction of an individual by the direct hit of a shell – was at the heart of the poetics and philosophy of the poet Frances Bellerby. For Bellerby, only 13 when her idolised brother Jack was killed, the moment of his death in 1916, was a severance that came to inform her poetry with a profoundly charged sense of rupture, but equally, an understanding of perfection: of design, of form, and of ‘wholeness’. This perfection is then located in a past which as it recedes, reveals continued existence to be increasingly flawed. Unsurprisingly, childhood and the natural world feature largely in Bellerby’s work: as evocations of pastoral innocence and the Ideal they signify ‘wholeness’ of being, in which perfection is registered entirely as the self-unaware, and thus ‘out of time’. More surprising is death’s place in this logic of perfection, for, despite deeply held religious beliefs, nowhere does Bellerby alleviate her loss by envisaging a reunion post-mortem. Rather she enshrines his death as the fatal promise of everything he was when he lived. The manner of Jack’s death completes the flawless design of his life leaving ‘no mess, no corpse’ hostage to the continuing ravages of time: perfect form is formlessness, and the paradox of Jack is that his literal formlessness in death ‘forms’ the perfection of his life. It is in the tight discipline of poetry that Bellerby most successfully expresses the agony of that repeated moment, as if this most formal of modes might console through form itself. This paper will demonstrate how, for Bellerby poetic form functions as repetition of deadly, or eternal perfection, a consolation which real form – ie. the physical living body constantly fails to offer. Instances of the pastoral, of childhood, and of the natural world, will be carefully read as markers of a desire for an infinity which erases human time even as that desire confirms its inevitability; death here can cleanse, and promise a return to flawlessness.
The Development of the Multidimensional Mortality Awareness Measure (MMAM)
Mortality awareness is an existential issue which arguably informs an individual’s life choice and behaviour. Explicit consideration of this concept is often avoided in western societies because it is experienced as threatening and creates anxiety (Becker, 1973). Accordingly, only few studies have developed measures focusing on the nature of mortality awareness. For example, Templer (1970) has created two scales based on associations with depression and anxiety; however, the measures do not encompass positive outcomes. Similarly, the Klug Death Acceptance Scale (Klug and Sinha, 1987) concentrates on only two dimensions of death acceptance. Wong and others (2007) created a four dimension scale where most of the statements are negative, do not account for positive outcomes and link death awareness with hopelessness. This measure also encapsulates the idea of religion as a catalyst for death acceptance, something which is problematic in secular settings. Rosenblatt’s et al (1989) Mortality Salience Attitude Survey is a two-item open ended questionnaire which is mostly used to prime mortality salience by asking respondents to write about the physical and emotional consequences of their death. As such, it does not explore all possible positive dimensions of mortality salience.
Related research has investigated the positive effects resulting from life threatening trauma: for example, the Post-traumatic Growth Inventory and has been applied to death awareness (Tedehi & Calhoun, 1996). In summary, these various tools do not reflect the diversity of the mortality awareness experience (Wortman, 2004). Here we report the development of the Multidimensional Mortality Awareness Measure (MMAM) in response to the shortcomings of the currently available measures. A review of existing theories of mortality awareness and its effects on day-to-day behaviour was carried out to identify the range of possible conceptual dimensions. Terror Management Theory (TMT) and the associated mortality salience hypothesis contend that human behaviour is mostly motivated by the fear of mortality, which, when primed leads to self-protective positional changes (Pysczynski, Greenberg & Solomon, 1999). As a further development, the Terror Management Health Model (TMHM; Goldenberg and Arndt, 2008) proposes that mortality awareness can be harnessed to help individuals work towards healthier lifestyles. In both theoretical contexts, mortality salience is said to affect decision-making, unconscious reactions, beliefs and self esteem. Tedeshi & Calhoun’ s (1996) Post-Traumatic Growth model (the potential growth experienced after surviving a trauma) as well as Erikson’s (1963, 1982) generative theory (which understands death awareness as part of individuals’ developmental stages) can be drawn upon here as they predict differential outcomes. A range of studies highlighting positive and negative consequences were also considered.
Subsequently, eight conceptual sub-components of mortality awareness were identified from this review of the available theoretical perspectives and associated studies:
(1) ‘Death Existential Anxiety’ encompasses anxiety linked to the impossibility of escaping the end of one’s life and a feeling of malaise; (2) ‘Death Defensiveness’ is understood as an avoidance of the awareness of death and the triggering of defensive behaviours that result in feeling death related anxiety; (3) ‘Death Hopelessness/Passivity’ relates to the realisation of insignificance in the face of death awareness and the inability to be invulnerable to death; (4) ‘Death Creativity & Legacy’ is about the need to create a legacy in order to live beyond death; (5) ‘Death Philanthropy’ is based on the need to give to others in order to attain a feeling of significance as an antidote to death anxiety; (6) ‘Death Acceptance’ relates to the confrontation & integration of the emotional as well as the physical reality of death; (7) ‘Death Denial’ relates to the refusal to acknowledge the idea of death and a possible feeling of immortality; and (8) ‘Continuity and Death’ relates to the notion that death can be ameliorated by the trans-generational transfer of biological genes, family, memories, values and spirituality.
10-13 items per conceptual component were generated in accordance with each definition, resulting in an 89 item questionnaire. Data from 270 respondents were collected. Item analysis was followed by scree analysis to determine the number of underlying factors; thereafter principal component analysis using varimax rotation investigated if the eight conceptual sub-types of mortality awareness could be confirmed empirically. Coefficients of reliability were computed for the emerging empirically-derived subscales. We also investigated the construct validity of the new measure in relation to the following independent predictor variables: resistance, as measured by the McDermott & Apter (1986) Rebelliousness Questionnaire; the Health-Promotion Lifestyle Profile II (Walker, Sechrist & Pender, 1995); risk taking attitudes as assessed by the Domain-Specific Risk-Taking Scale (Weber, Blais, and Betz, 2002); and demographic variables. The results are discussed in relation to the theoretical frameworks from which the conceptual components were derived and with respect to the importance of psychometrically robust multidimensional measurement when studying mortality awareness.
Exeter University History and English departments
‘Power in weakness: feigned illness as the weapon of women in eighteenth century literature’
The eighteenth-century literary heroine is most commonly recognised for her fragility, displaying her acute sensibility through eloquent tears, blushes and swoons. However, as G. J. Barker-Benfield has noted, ‘throughout the century novels of sensibility suggested that women’s nervous illness could be a means of self-preservation’, used to awaken the would-be seducer’s sympathy. Barker-Benfield highlights the interesting paradox of the potential for power within weakness, yet a closer examination of the novels and drama of this period suggests that illness, or the appearance of it, was perceived to be an active rather than passive weapon of the weaker sex. Female characters are frequently depicted as knowingly simulating illness in order to gain power, and in many cases such artifice is condoned as the only available response in dire situations of rape or arranged marriages. Nevertheless, the idea that virtuous heroines must resort to lying and falsifying their previously legible bodes proved problematic, and novelists in particular felt discomfort with this artifice, often stressing the way that real emotional distress renders simulation practically unnecessary. Conversely, as this paper will indicate, such texts also depicted women making use of feigned illness for more unscrupulous ends, whether to practise infidelity, conceal pregnancies or manipulate those around them, revealing more explicit social anxieties regarding the possibilities of female somatic insincerity.
Montse Morcate and Rebeca Pardo
Faculty of Fine Arts, Universitat de Barcelona, U.B.
firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Grief, Illness and Death in Contemporary Photography
The grieving process, related to death or illness in the intimate context of the bereaved, occupies a marginal place in the use of family photography. Nevertheless, contemporary photography seems to have become a new medium of expression in the processes of grief and the claim of memory, even of the most personal, intimate, and delicate moments.
In this way, the camera becomes at the same time a shield and a weapon capable of facing adversity. Photography as a medium is also the starting point of a self-referential work of documentary appearance that is frequently exposed like a homage/reliquary of the shared sorrow.
This article analyzes the recent photographic projects dealing with grief, exploring the facts that have allowed their development and acceptance in contemporary art, while society continues rejecting this type of intimate images in the family album context because they are far away from the happiness these are supposed to portray.
Contemporary Persephone: Death in Environmental Art – Self- Eradication to Mass Mortality
Neo-Malthusian environmental politics and theory frequently identify the human species as a pathogen: as the human global population reaches 6 billion John Gray, via James Lovelock, describes a “chronically infected” earth which will be only be “cured” by mass mortality. This can lead to a logical and emotional impasse for many ecological subjects who desire both their own absence and presence in nature, Lacan’s “impossible gaze”. Using the work of contemporary visual artists this paper will explore images of self-eradication and mortality that reconcile or submit to this Thanocratic variant of eco-politics.
In particular reference will be made to the way in public space modulates and produces mortality, and in turn how artists utilise the environmental politics to question normative expressions of mortality, both within populations and for individuals. Examples will include the work of Spencer Tunick whose project Dead Sea (2011) uses images of hundreds of naked people floating in the Dead Sea to create “a grassroots project initiated in Israel to draw attention to [the Sea’s] environmental plight” and Alex Murdin’s work in Lyme Regis where street lighting will be connected to the local registry of births, deaths and marriages.
Literatures in English, Università della Calabria, Italy
‘Treble Exposure’: Fissured Memory in Eva Figes’ Fiction
This paper attempts a reading of three works by Eva Figes, a British feminist scholar and writer of German-Jewish ascent, from the perspective of Disability studies and Age studies. I intend to interrogate works as varied as Jenny’s Version (1977), Ghosts (1988), Waking (1993), in order to discover the narrative and cultural trajectories through which illness, pain, and ageing interrogate and interrupt, or at least reformulate, identity.
Always written from an openly gendered narratorial position, Figes’ texts can be adopted as ‘limit case’ textualities, which function as transparencies and ‘expose’ time and its more or less visible remnants as onto photographic plate. In her memoirs, Figes programmatically records her complex resettlement in Britain after her Jewish family managed to flee from 1939 Germany; in her quasi-poetic fiction, she also ‘commits’ herself – as Shoshana Felman might have it – to narrating irrepressible mourning and loss. I contend that the works I focus upon tensely interpellate all traces of the past as well as all the irretrievable, plural, fluid pasts amnesia and other forms of molecular degeneration render ghostly.
Sue M. Porter and Ann Rippin
School for Policy Studies and Department of Management, University of Bristol
Warming The Method: Bringing Heart into Our Research through the Use of Imaging
This presentation originated in our joint fascination with relics, votives and sacred images. Our paper explores a research process that brings the practice of ‘listening’ and responding to objects from its art therapy roots (McNiff, 1998), together with the narrative practice of auto-ethnography. In doing so, we seek to find wider political and cultural meaning and significance through this study of our response to objects. We touch on the social construction of the disabled and barren body and the place of liminality it occupies; an ethics of looking/staring (Garland-Thomson, 2009; Scarry, 1999); and the research method of using objects (real and imagined) as a stimulus for embodied inquiry. Our interest is to describe and develop a practice which can produce knowledge useful in sharing an experience – that of being disabled (Cavarero, 1997), attempting to reduce the experience of ‘othering’ by attending to the production of ‘normal’, and at the same time avoiding easy identification and voyeuristic or sentimentalising empathy, recognising inaccessible alterity (Lather, 2007). We explore the role of the aesthetic in producing knowledge, and draw on theoretical perspectives from critical disability and queer studies, as well as from Benjamin’s work on the cultic image.
English Studies, Durham University
Neurasthenia, Transcorporeality and Sue Bridehead: The “Strange and Unwelcome Product of Exhaustion”
The purpose of this paper is to argue that Sue Bridehead, the female protagonist of Jude the Obscure is afflicted by Neurasthenia, a condition identified by symptoms like anxiety, depression, headaches and insomnia. I locate Sue’s identity formation and subsequent disintegration in not just her socio-cultural circumstances, but also through her relationship and response to the built environment of the post-industrial, capitalist era. To escape essentialist binaries, feminism has long taken recourse to distancing the woman from both nature and corporeality but I argue that the connection is undeniable, as the enmeshing of human corporeality and non-human nature paves the way for new modes of analysis in the transcorporeal space – the zone of contact between the human body and the wider physical environment. The environment cannot be dismissed as just a backdrop to human action and agency, or a passive resource to the active human counterpart. Sue’s characterisation provides the scope to look beyond the particulars of plot and personality that links New Woman fiction thematically, to demonstrate the influence of the biological and physical sciences. Her female body bears the burden of nervous disorder and reproductive crisis which manifests itself through her struggle with the tropes of compulsory heterosexuality, pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood.
Fine Art Contemporary Practice
This paper will investigate ‘uncertainty’ from a hospital bed; as a method of learning for doctors, as a reason for hospital patients to remain ‘present’ and as a basis for experiencing ‘alive-ness’ in performance. Bleeding from every orifice, the gross symptoms in my body suggested I was suffering from Haemolytic Uremic Syndrome, however, the identification of the organism and the cause of this disease and was not diagnosed until after I left hospital, 10 days later. The consultants dealt with this challenge of uncertainty within a scientific framework, drawing on background knowledge and experience as medical practitioners to figure out the most appropriate treatment. As a patient, I experienced symptoms of decay and toxicity and was left to deal with the human-side of uncertainty and its resultant anxiety, without a set of tools to draw upon for coping with the unknown. Now, as a practicing and healthy contemporary artist carrying this hospital experience, I have turned to practicing ‘disciplines of doubt’ in order to become free of attachment to fixed appearances, essences and viewpoints and as way of developing equanimity and ‘aliveness’ in performance.
Nikki Salkeld and Ashley Rudolph
Graphic Design, Falmouth University
Grief and Mourning: The MOTH Project. An Ethnographical Approach to Practice Based Research
We began by exploring objects which: Facilitate problem solving (tools which articulate process); provide triggers to creativity (devices for narrative, fcus for chance and transition); Metaphors, with layers of meaning (specific to the ‘reader’, culture, historical context etc). As fragments and hybrids. In conversation with a Norwegian student, she talked about the lack of suitable symbols available which offered a universal visual sympathy in death, following the massacre at Utoeya. Social media messages all used the heart symbol. This felt inadequate in its appropriation and our inability to discuss death as freely as we discuss love, has left us visually mute when confronted with grief and mourning. Our research has led us to create/collate symbols and objects as well as letterforms/typography of death, using this reference to redefine programmed conventions of understanding and to ultimately begin a journey to design a typeface, and visual system of death.
‘My week with Jeff.’ Fostering Emotional Wellbeing and Empathy in Trainee Doctors: A Creative Writing Project
An elderly man you had been chatting to one day is gone from his bed the next (he died suddenly in the night); a young woman with advanced cancer breaks down in front of you and you are lost for words; a consultant barks at you for failing to recognise an obvious diagnosis. The emotional challenges facing medical students should not be underestimated. Research has shown that these pressures, combined with a fear of making mistakes, a demanding curriculum, time pressureand sleep loss, result in a decline in patient empathy which often sets in during the third year of medical training (Hojat, Vergare et al, 2009). Medical schools are attempting to tackle this problem by a range of means but teaching empathy is a challenge.
It has been shown that creative writing and poetry can help doctors to consider the perspectives of patients and relatives (Foster et al, 2008). Less attention, perhaps, has been given to the role that creative or reflective writing can have in supporting trainee doctors emotionally and in helping them to come to terms with the demands of their new careers. This presentation will describe a short creative writing course run with fourth year medical students at the Peninsula Medical School in Cornwall. A writing group met five times over the course of seven months for a two-hour workshop in which students practised free-writing exercises and other activities. Students kept a regular journal for the duration of the course and each session involved sharing of work — either prose or poetry — for feedback and discussion. At the end of the course students wrote a reflective essay on their experience of using writing. Key observations were as follows:
Institute of Education, University of Reading
Whose Disability Is It Anyway? : The Portrayal of Characters with Impairments in Plays Studied at School
Disability is, according to the social model, a function of society rather than the impairment of the individual. The portrayal of disability, via stereotyping and ‘blatant symbolism’ (Hartnett 2000, 21 ) in the arts and the media is held to contribute to the social effect. What happens, then, when school students study a play such as Whose Life is it Anyway? Do they see the protagonist Ken as a disabled victim or an agent of self-determination? Are school students ‘disabled’ themselves in terms of their views of disability by the influential representation which they have to study, or does this experience of education enable them to form their own informed and rounded view of the character and the issue? The paper broadly supports the latter view, and considers: the social model, with particular reference to ideas of stereotyping, metaphor and metonymy, as applied to plays; pedagogical claims made for personal response; and data from examination scripts from international schools on Brian Clark’s play.
Clark, B. (1978), Whose Life is it Anyway? Charlbury: Amber Lane.
Hartnett, A. (2000), ‘Escaping the ‘evil avenger’ and the ‘supercrip’: images of disability in popular television’, The Irish Communications Review 8: 21-29.
Lorna Warren and Julie Ellis
Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield
Families and their photography practices at the end of life
There is a gap in knowledge about the everyday lives of dying people. Acknowledging this and the limited visibility of more ‘ordinary’ dying/deaths in popular culture, we are interested in how photography – photos and the processes of taking of these – are managed and negotiated in the day-to-day lives of families dealing with death and dying. For instance, how does the knowledge of impending death affect the photography practices of ‘ordinary’ families? How do dying people feel about being ‘captured’ in images? What images, if any, are taken during the illness and dying process? Under what circumstances are they taken, by whom, and who might see them? Furthermore, where do these images subsequently ‘live’ or get displayed? What do families say about the role of images post death – at funerals and in memorialisation? Our paper will explore these questions and consider the role images might play in the constitution of families at this time. To frame our discussion, we share insights from a reflexive structured conversation where we identify the autobiographical and theoretical origins of our proposed research to explore the visual culture of ‘everyday’ dying experiences.
Dr Joanne Whalley
Devised Theatre, Falmouth University
The Unborn Undead: A Journey With a Bi-Fold Body
I need to start with a confession. I am not a zombie, and have never been a zombie, but once I carried a zombie with me for 4 weeks. For a month during the summer of 2012 I carried a foetus inside me in the full knowledge that it was dead. For whatever reason, my pregnancy didn’t develop as hoped, and the baby died, but my body refused to let go. Rather than opt for the immediate surgical removal we decided, my zombie and I, to wait for nature to take its course. Throughout this time, and I hope you will forgive my use of the plural, as ‘I’ seemed like a ‘we’, we felt like a cross between Schrödinger’s box and Derrida’s ‘undecidable’, a literal site of both-and, and for a while I was twinned, or conjoined, with a zombie. It is perhaps inevitable that our thoughts turned to parasites, to monsters in utero, to Cronenberg’s The Brood, Atwood’s Kat, and to the horrors and pleasures that these concepts afford. And although the zombie inside is already gone, we would like to propose a paper exploring these redoubled and unreasonable horrors. Together we will explore a twice-told tale beset by a bi-fold body, where the zombie is folded and carried alongside its human counterpart.
Fine Art, Falmouth University
Transience: Exploring the Relationship between Ephemerality, Mourning and Loss through Dust and Place
Making sculptural works and installations that respond to a particular site, environment or context the ephemeral, decay and disappearance form the core of my research interests. I am interested in how transience and death can be translated into a visual language through working with materials such as dust, dead animals, rotting food and melted plastics. Working with the poetry of transient materials reflects the belief that there is nothing lasting, immortal, permanent in life. What emerges out of the ruins, the dust, the remains? What place do we give transience in our lives? By bringing an audience to a silent platform in which to contemplate mortality I wish to raise questions that seek to confront societies attitudes towards death and the cultural codes, taboos, social norms and morals that surround it. Do these artworks offer a way in which to mourn?
I am interested in making work that unsettles the viewer by manipulating materials such as dust, human ashes, shadows and dead animals through the process of photography, installation, sculpture and site related works thereby exploring the relationship between ephemerality, mourning and loss.
Dr Steven Wilson
School of Modern Languages, Queen’s University Belfast
“My existence is effectively over”: The Syphilis Autopathography in Nineteenth-Century France
This paper considers the ways in which literature deals with the medical realities and the human experience of mortality. Examining continuities and discontinuities between medical and autopathographical representations of syphilis in nineteenth-century France, at a critical moment when its incurable status led to scores of deaths and caused widespread panic, the specific focus of the paper is on the embodied experience of mortality. Situated within the rich methodological paradigm of the medical humanities, it asks the following questions: how is syphilis constructed and seen in personal narratives in nineteenth-century France? In what ways does autopathography borrow from medical discourses? To what extent is the narrative act in autopathographical texts therapeutically significant? How does writing – and the possibilities afforded by narrative control – release the sufferer from the (medical) realities of disease? Drawing upon a variety of often neglected French medical writings of the time, and reading these alongside narratives which outline the personal reality of disease by the Goncourt brothers, Flaubert, Maupassant and Daudet, the paper seeks to appreciate better the relationship between venereal disease and mortality across scientific and literary traditions. All quotations will be given in English translation for the purposes of comparison and discussion.
Helen Thomas firstname.lastname@example.org
 I am using the Ideal here in Mallarmé’s sense: the Ideal rose is evoked rather than described.
 Bellerby’s short story ‘The Green Cupboard’: in which the narrator muses how Paul, ‘blown to bits one August morning’ (just like Jack) meets an end which perfectly fits his life, and that ‘Paul as a corpse would indeed have been ludicrously incongruous.’ (Selected Stories, Enitharmon Press, 1985)
 Edmund Gosse, Cosmopolis (January 1896) cited in The Critical Heritage. P. 168-169.