CFP: German Graphic Medicine: The Representation of Illness and Disability in German Comics

Forty-Second Annual Conference of the German Studies Association
September 27 - 30, 2018
Stichtag: 20.01.2018

In MK Czerweic’s introduction to the Graphic Medicine Manifesto (2015), she writes that comics about illness and disability disrupt the balance of power: “we believe those best positioned to represent illness and caregiving are those living with it.” Graphic pathographies – or pathographics – offer the individual stories of patients, family members, and health care professionals, giving voice to those living with illness, chronic disease, and disability in a way that modern medicine and contemporary literature do not – by visualizing it. The way comics are able to communicate silence or the inability to speak, represent experiences that are hard to describe in words, such as trauma, depression and the internal thought processes of non-neurotypical individuals, and impart the hardships of living with chronic diseases, such as multiple scleroses, has given rise to a body of graphic literature that thematizes forms of experience that might otherwise go unarticulated. Coined by Ian Williams, a British physician and comics artist, graphic medicine is an emerging field of interdisciplinary research that examines this body of work. While comics explicitly engaging these subjects are rarer in the German language context, graphic medicine is gaining momentum worldwide thanks to the PathoGraphics project, an international collaboration housed in the Friedrich Schlegel Graduiertenschule für literaturwissenschaftliche Studien at the Freie Universität Berlin. The recent PathoGraphics conference at the Berlin Museum of Medical History at the Charité drew scholars and artists from around the world. This panel seeks to continue conversation and encourage scholarship on pathographics in an exclusively German-speaking context and invites abstract proposals on German graphic medicine.

Topics might include:

  • the aesthetics of representing illness and disability in the comics form
  • graphic medicine in the German studies classroom
  • the intersection between life writing and graphic narratives of illness
  • concepts of authenticity or in pathographics
  • conventions of the genre
  • the text-image relationship in graphic medicine
  • the politics of representing illness and disability
  • graphic medicine as emancipatory and subversive
  • intersections with disability studies
  • how graphic medicine is in conversation with medicine and the medical humanities

Some possible texts include:

  • Mawil’s Action Sorgenkind (2007) – about the author’s childhood issues with stuttering
  • Barbara Yelin’s Gift (2010) – about Gesche Gottfried, the serial killer who murdered 15 people by arsenic poisoning in Bremen and Hanover between 1813 and 1827
  • Sascha Hommer’s Vier Augen (2009) – about the author’s depression and drug-induced psychosis
  • Phil Hubbe’s comics on his life with multiple scleroses (MS)
  • Anna Sommer’s Eugen und der freche Wicht (2003) – a children’s book about brain tumors
  • Anna Sommer’s Julie ist wieder da! (2010) – about a girl with leukemia
  • Melanie Garland’s Offene arme (2010) – about the author’s experience as a child with borderline personality disorder
  • Reto Gloor’s Das Karma-Problem (2015) – about the author’s first year living with multiple scleroses (MS)
  • Roland Burkart’s Wirbelsturm (2017) – a semi-autobiographical graphic novel about life as a quadriplegic
  • Daniela Schreiter’s Schattenspringer: Wie es ist, anders zu sein (2014) – about the author’s experience living on the autism spectrum
  • Elke Renate Steiner’s Risiken und Nebenwirkungen (2010) – about the misuse of prescription drugs
  • Katharina Greve’s Patchwork – Frau Doktor Waldbeck näht sich eine Familie (2011) – about a transplant doctor who sews herself a family from leftover body parts

Please send abstracts of approx. 300 words and a short biographical statement to Elizabeth (Biz) Nijdam ( by January 20, 2018.

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