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first funding period (2016-2019)

March 2016–February 2019

The PathoGraphics project at Freie Universität Berlin is the first and, at the moment, the only research group at a German university that focuses on illness narratives in both literature and comics. From an intermedial and cross-cultural perspective, the project seeks to address narrative and visual strategies, aesthetic choices, and ethical implications in both literature about illness (often called “pathographies”) and comics dealing with experiences of illness, disability, therapy, and care (a genre known as “graphic medicine”). PathoGraphics is located at the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies at Freie Universität Berlin and supported by Einstein Visiting Fellow Prof. Susan Merrill Squier, PhD (Penn State University).

During the first funding period (March 2016 to February 2019), the project’s aims were to: 1) foster a dialogue between literary and cultural studies, comics studies, critical health studies, medical professionals, and the general public, 2) incite cross-cultural and intermedial academic debates through conferences, publications, and non-academic public events, 3) offer seminar meetings and public lectures demonstrating how literary studies and the medical humanities can benefit from including comics into their curricula, 4) integrate the Einstein Visiting Fellow into Berlin’s vibrant intellectual and artistic community and 5) strengthen the international visibility of Freie Universität Berlin as one of Berlin’s leading academic centers.

Einstein Visiting Fellow Susan Squier and the Berlin team members – academic lead Prof. Dr. Irmela Marei Krüger-Fürhoff, postdoctoral researcher Dr. Nina Schmidt, and predoctoral researcher stef lenk – held several international conferences, the largest of which was held at the Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité. Entitled “Stories of Illness / Disability in Literature and Comics: Intersections of the Medical, the Personal, and the Cultural“ and “Dementia, Violence, and the Politics of Memory in Contemporary Literature, Film, and Comics“, the conference also served as inaugural event for a corresponding and widely acclaimed comics exhibition curated and organized by the team. SICK! Reclaiming illness through comics / Kranksein im Comic was on exhibitat the Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité from October 2017 to March 2018, introducing the growing genre of graphic illness narratives to a wider German audience and initiating conversations on the topic amongst academics, artists, medical professionals, the comics community and the wider public. The exhibition catalogue is available open access at https://refubium.fu-berlin.de/handle/fub188/20216. An edited volume based on the conference papers entitled Patho Graphics: Narrative, Aesthetics, Contention, Community will be published in 2020 with Penn State University Press.

During the granted extension period (2019 to 2021), the PathoGraphics team will expand and intensify transdisciplinary and transinstitutional activities in the context of healthcare training, the critical medical humanities, and patient empowerment, establishing closer ties with medical professionals and the Charité Institute for the History of Medicine and Ethics in Medicine.