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Health Humanities: Language, Literature and Health in the Department of Language Studies

Health humanities engages with questions about medicine and health from a variety of perspectives including anthropology, literature, language, psychology, sociology and the arts. The perspectives of these disciplines are increasingly informing medical education, ethics and practice.

The health humanities research cluster in the department ranges from concerns about the connections between the body and religious experience, as well as medicine and ethics, in the Middle Ages and beyond to linguistic analysis of learning during clinical practice. For example, Virginia Langum has worked on medicine and the seven deadly sins in late medieval literature and culture, as well as compassionate bodies and surgical practice. She is currently leading a project on Migration and Mental Illness in Literature before the 19th century funded by the Marcus och Amalia Wallenbergs Minnesfond. As part of this project, Harini Vembar is starting a PhD project on mental illness and migration in the figure of the Victorian governess. Another of Langum's PhD students Elena Glotova is investigating metaphors of work stress in literature from the 19th and 20th centuries. Asbjørg Westum has studied the narratives of the Spanish flu pandemic (1918-1920), and is currently researching how the interactions between popular understanding of disease compare, contrast, and conflict with the understandings of those working in medicine, historically and today. And Kirk Sullivan has recently published together with Peter Czigler of the School of Health and Medical Sciences, Örebro University, research examining the development of reflective abilities during clinical placement.

The department also hosts a dedicated seminar on Language, Literature and Health

In addition to research, the department offers three masters’ level courses in the health humanities: Blaming the Body (offered again in VT 2019), Narrating Madness (offered in VT 2018) and Motifs of Madness (offered in VT 2018). The department is also involved in the training of speech and language pathologists, who are based in the medical faculty.

For further information on the department's work in the Health Humanities and the Language, Literature and Health seminar, please contact Virginia Langum virginia.langum@umu.se

Selected Recent Health Humanities Publications from the Department of Language Studies

Holmkvist, E., K.P.H.Sullivan, and A. Westum, "Adult Refugees with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Learn Swedish," in Educating Refugee-Background Students: Critical Issues and Dynamic Contexts, ed. S. Shapiro, R. Farrelly and M.J. Curry, M.J. (Bristol: Multilingual Matters, forthcoming, 2017)

Langum, Virginia. "The Physiology of Reading Pleasure and the Pleasures of Reading Physiology in the Middle Ages," UGPS Working Paper Series, 2016.2.

Langum, Virginia. Medicine and the Seven Deadly Sins in Late Medieval Literature and Culture (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016)

Langum, Virginia, “’As a Kinde Modur Shulde’: Mary and Natural Maternity in the Middle Ages,” in Words and Matter: the Virgin Mary in Medieval and Early Modern Medieval Parish Life, ed. Jonas Carlquist and Virginia Langum (Stockholm: Runica et Mediaevalia), pp. 135-50

Langum, Virginia, “Sacred and Secular Wrath,” in Sacred and Secular Healing in the Middle Ages, ed. Barbara Bowers and Linda Keyser (Farnham: Ashgate 2016), pp. 13-25

Langum, Virginia, “’The Wounded Surgeon:’ Devotion, Compassion and Metaphor in Medieval England,” in Wounds and Wound Repair in Medieval Culture, ed. Larissa Tracy, and Kelley Devries (Leiden: Brill, 2015), pp. 269-90

Westum, Asbjörg, "'Å du minns ju spanska, du?': på spaning efter konstruktionen av en pandemi," in Språken, tiden, rummet: festskrift tillägnad Lars-Erik Edlund på 60-årsdagen den 16 augusti 2013, ed. Daniel Andersson and Susanne Haugen (Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2013), pp. 13-30 

Westum, Asbjörg and Virginia Langum, ”I människan själv, eller utanför?: Föreställningar om pestens orsaker i lärda skrifter och folktro,” Kulturella Perspektiv 2015, pp. 11-19

Recent Health Humanities Graduate Work from the Department of Language Studies

Vembar, Harini, "'Inside the Fat Woman, Trying to Get out': Louise Glück's Lyric Poetry and the Aesthetics of Anorexia" (Unpublished MA Thesis, Umeå University 2017)


Sidansvarig: Magnus Nordström

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Bild: Juan Valverde de Amusco