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graphic novels

Book Review: Aliceheimer’s

5 Oct, 16 | by cquigley

978-0-271-07468-9lg

 

Aliceheimer’s. Alzheimer’s Through the Looking Glass

By Dana Walrath. Published by The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2016.

 

Reviewed by Dr Martina Zimmermann.

 

Dana Walrath’s Aliceheimer’s. Alzheimer’s Through the Looking Glass is the second graphic memoir by an adult child about her mother’s Alzheimer’s disease, after Sarah Leavitt’s Tangle. A Story About Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me (2012); a further contribution to the steadily growing body of dementia caregiver life-writing. The best-known representative of this body is surely John Bayley’s Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch (1998) – given the account’s prominent filmic adaptation, its unceasing consideration in literary scholarship, its persistent presence in the lecture theatre and seminar room, and the countless citations other caregivers take from this text. For these caregivers, Bayley’s narrative has provided inspiration, and at times moral justification – especially for how they tell about the patient’s loss of self. Walrath foregoes reference to the experiences of other caregivers. Instead, she connects her account to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1871). Allusion to Alice’s Adventures in caregiver narratives is not new: Cécile Huguenin made the connection in Alzheimer mon amour [Alzheimer my love] (2011) and Sally Magnusson in Where Memories Go. Why Dementia Changes Everything (2014). Both wife and daughter refer to being lost in an environment that resembles Carroll’s nonsense world, exposed to the nonsensical organisation of caregiving and lacking support from practicing clinicians. Walrath, however, maps her narrative onto Carroll’s story to depict the condition itself. In doing so, she offers an unexpected perspective on Alzheimer’s disease; she seemingly creates a new condition: Aliceheimer’s. Concurrently, Aliceheimer’s acknowledges that Alzheimer’s disease creates a new person, indelibly linked to the Alzheimer’s disease experience. Alice is no longer “her old self” – a “proud, hardworking career woman [who] had done all the cooking and cleaning for her family of five, without any outside help” (11). Having fallen down the rabbit hole, she now is “her new self” (27): Aliceheimer.

A pronounced feature of Alice’s dementia is disease-related hallucinations and fears, and Walrath dedicates a large part of her account to this aspect of her mother’s illness experience. This choice of presentation makes Walrath’s narrative unique. In fact, affective symptomatology, that is auditory hallucinations as well as ideas of jealousy, had been described by Alois Alzheimer in the landmark case of Auguste Deter in 1906. However, cognitive and histopathological features took priority in medico-scientific and healthcare descriptions of dementia patients in the first half of the twentieth century and beyond. And while the patient’s mind and psyche entered the literary arena much earlier and more explicitly (since the 1920s) as compared to when and how old-age psychiatrists and social medics began to take an interest in this area, they continue to remain absent from most caregiver accounts. Walrath describes some of her mother’s hallucinations, but more importantly, she gives them new meaning, depicting them as Alice’s space time travel and a special power (37). What happens under the spell of Alzheimer’s disease happens in wonderland. Mapping her mother’s experiences onto the adventures of Carroll’s character is a gambit that enables the caregiver to counter-narrate the patient’s social death and loss of self in a culture “where death is taboo, and aging is not celebrated” (47).

Walrath confirms what anthropologist Janelle Taylor explored in her prize-winning essay “On Recognition, Caring, and Dementia” (2008), namely that recognition is considered to be the “public threshold” (69). Specifically, the first thing Walrath is asked when her interlocutor learns that Alice has been placed in a nursing home is: “does she still recognize you?” (69) An anthropologist herself, Walrath asserts that “more than recognition of individuals and their social roles, it is recognition of intention and behavior that matters” (69). This insight is core to Walrath’s caregiving practice, as she assigns intention to Alice’s hallucination-caused behaviour – a strategy also pursued by Reeve Lindbergh in No More Words. A Journal of My Mother, Anne Morrow Lindbergh (2001). Lindbergh’s literary account of her mother’s dementia features among those we perceive of as particularly enabling because it seeks to identify the patient’s continued identity and self within dementia. Similarly, Walrath concedes that “there is loss with dementia, but what matters is how we approach our losses and our gains. Reframing dementia as a different way of being, as a window into another reality, lets people living in that state be our teachers – useful, true humans who contribute to our collective good, instead of scary zombies.” (4) This approach echoes that of other caregivers, like Arno Geiger in Der alte König in seinem Exil [The old king in his exile] (2011), Ruth Schäubli-Meyer in Alzheimer. Wie will ich noch leben – wie sterben [Alzheimer’s. How will I continue to live – how will I die?] (2010) or Cécile Huguenin, who depict their parent or partner as teachers. But in comparison to these caregivers Walrath does not give her mother her own narrative space. Aliceheimer’s remains Walrath’s account. And as such it reveals that a balance between continuity of identity for the patient as parent and continuity for the caregiver as child is not easily found – neither in the illness experience itself nor in an account thereof.

Walrath writes beautifully about how she creates continuity within and for her mother’s behaviour, how she discovers gain within loss. But we are only told about the “more benign hallucinations” (5) relating for example to the patient’s sundowning (35), not the difficult ones. We read about Alzheimer’s disease as “a time of healing and magic.” (4) But we are not told about the profound challenges of dementia caregiving. We gain such information only from the acknowledgements, where Walrath concedes that “[c]aring for Alice required a community […that] gave Alice space to be herself and to grow even through loss.” (71) Where are the caregiver burden and identity crisis of the child in this narrative? Are these challenges not explored in more detail, because we are expected to fill them in from our knowledge of the mainstream dementia narrative? I believe that the key to these questions is found in the narrative’s collage technique.

There is a clear compositional strategy in Aliceheimer’s: on the left the patchwork image of pages cut from Carroll’s text incorporated into Walrath’s own drawings and colouring; on the right Walrath’s written account in one-page long snippets and impressions. In a first instance, this arrangement gives the disease-inflicted, hallucination-provoked chaos a systematic structure. But more importantly, it enables Walrath to tell two different stories. The author encourages us to “[p]age through to feel the storyline as it exists in the drawings on their own” (5). But the collage depicts a truth on which the textual narrative – effectively like every Alzheimer’s disease memoir – remains silent: the patient’s complete disintegration and dissolution. The collage arrangement leaves space for the onlooker to imagine the full truth conveyed in Aliceheimer’s. In the end, Aliceheimer’s is Alzheimer’s: a disease of relentless loss and decline.

aliceslide1

Roughly a third of the account covers the time from when Alice is placed in what Walrath terms “memory care”. From the time of Alice’s placement the pictorial narrative tells an explicit story of decline, regression and involution, of what Walrath only once spells out in writing, namely that “with each passing day, Alice was becoming developmentally younger” (61). The collage images show Alice as a young bride, a school girl, in her babyhood; Alice’s eventual bodily and mental disintegration become clear from images depicting Alice in the immediate post-fertilisation phase with the zygote (a spiral cut from a page of Carroll’s text) surrounded by sperm cells (64), and another image reducing Alice to mere DNA (the cut-out text from Carroll’s narrative that links the molecule’s two strands together featuring key characters in Alice’s adventures [66]). Instead of telling about Alice’s disintegration in the nursing home in her written account on the right, Walrath now takes to peering through the looking glass in yet another way. She sets out to explore Alice’s past and describes her personality in the past. With this account, she can place the “old” Alice before the increasingly disintegrating Aliceheimer. Not only do photographs of the young Alice begin to replace Walrath’s drawn image of her mother. In this final third, some chapters extend over more than one page, indicating that the caregiver needs to tell more of the story than the image alone can or should tell. Where the narrative snippet spreads onto the next page, the accompanying image is repeated in magnified form, suggesting that eventually the caregiver’s story must replace the patient’s world. Walrath, indeed, depicts her mother as increasingly transparent early on (10-15) and – like other caregivers such as Elena De Dionigi in Prima di volare via. Quello che l’Alzheimer non ci può rubare [Before flying away. What Alzheimer’s cannot steal from us] (2012) – as flying away (18-22).

aliceslide2

Aliceheimer’s remains Walrath’s account also for the fact that it creates continuity for the daughter that reaches beyond her professional interests. In the first place, it tries to give meaning to the caregiving process, as the daughter now has to mother the mother, or as Walrath – mother of three boys herself – puts it: “I had always wanted a daughter” (57). Equally, Walrath describes the period of caregiving as a time when she “wanted to create a bond with my mother, to redo the past, and to fill the hole inside of me” (1). And as such, Aliceheimer’s also remains Walrath’s account when the narrative turns into the daughter’s search for the mother’s past as the story of her own origin; a past that will be forgotten with Alice’s memory loss; a past that harbours Alice’s as much as her daughter’s identity as Armenian. In this regard, Walrath’s narrative fits into the tradition of adult-child caregiver narratives that arose during the 1990s’ memory boom; narratives about a parent’s dementia whose forgetting becomes linked to the danger of an entire generation’s loss of collective memory about the trauma and fate of the Jewish people – if we think about Linda Grant’s Remind Me Who I Am, Again (1998) or Lisa Appignanesi’s Losing the Dead (1999). Like many caregivers before her Walrath becomes the “archivist”, not only of the mother’s memories, but an entire people’s history: she travels to Armenia to “make the missing pieces of our past into more than ideas” (61).

Peter Keating has described Carroll’s Alice as having “pioneered the new mood of freedom and exploratory play in children’s books”. Walrath’s narrative could be read as representing a new mood of freedom in how to deal with Alzheimer’s disease. It is a narrative about Alice’s different identities, views and truths of the world; a narrative showing that “[c]onflicting realities can coexist in a single image just as they do for people with dementia and their caregivers” (5). Walrath asserts that her mother “escapes the captivity of Alzheimer’s through story” (29). Also Walrath herself escapes the captivity of Alzheimer’s through story: the captivity of the medico-scientific and wider cultural narrative of decline, diminishment and loss. To my mind, Walrath’s reference to Carroll’s “Lobster Quadrille” (47) is most revealing. In this adventure, Carroll’s protagonist offers to tell her experiences on condition of not “going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then”. Living well with the patient comes down to living in the present moment – living within the world and experience of Aliceheimer. When this is not possible any longer, Walrath’s memory of her mother’s old self, Alice, will come to replace both Alice’s memory and Aliceheimer herself.

If this is the first Alzheimer’s disease narrative you pick up you will come away with the feeling of having read a kind of fairy story – about Alzheimer’s through the looking glass. If you read it against the last decade’s caregiver life-writing, you will see it fitting into how adult children increasingly assert their parent’s continued identity and self within dementia. Reading it in the context of nearly thirty years of Alzheimer’s disease life-writing, Aliceheimer’s appears original in its collage approach, and buoyant in its message of how to “bring back the humanity of a person with dementia” (5). But it also matches what has developed into a kind of prototype caregiver dementia narrative. It tells of biographical disruption; searches for continuity for both parent and child; aims at preserving collective memory; presents – as John Wiltshire has discussed in relation to John Bayley’s memoir – “the issues of identity which are implicit in all illness experience with particular acuteness”. Aliceheimer’s is a story about the possibility to find quality of life in dementia caregiving; the possibility to see Alzheimer’s disease as creating a new self, a self that can be lived with and written about up to the moment when we feel threatened in our own self.

 

 

The final review in this series – Alzheimer’s disease and graphic memoirs – will be Sarah Leavitt’s Tangles.

The first in the series – Alex Demetris’s Dad’s Not There Anymore – was posted here.

 

Related Reading

David M R Orr, Yugin Teo. Carers’ responses to shifting identity in dementia in Iris and Away From Her: cultivating stability or embracing change? Med Humanities 2015;41:2 8185.

Martina Zimmermann. Deliver us from evil: carer burden in Alzheimer’s disease. Med Humanities 2010;36:2 101107.

 

Book Review: Dad’s Not All There Anymore

26 Sep, 16 | by cquigley

 

This is the first of a series of comic book reviews on the theme of Dementia. Reviews of Sarah Leavitt’s Tangles and Dana Walrath’s Aliceheimer’s to follow.

 

Demetris Cover

 

Dad’s Not All There Anymore by Alex Demetris

 

Reviewed by Harriet Earle

 

As an academic, I have a love-hate relationship with Wikipedia. I tell my students to steer well clear and never to rely on it for anything but the most cursory glances at a subject. However, I will admit that I use it regularly (and, in the website’s defence, the references can often be very helpful). There is absolutely a place in academia – and in life – for Wikipedia’s accessible and easy synopses. It is likely that, were I to require information on Lewy Body Dementia (LBD), I would soon be typing it into my phone’s app. However, one central thing that is missing from Wikipedia is heart. An encyclopaedia is not meant to be an emotional and emotive document; it’s aim is to inform, not to evoke emotion. However, when one is talking about many topics, such as LBD, the basic definition (or even an exhaustive medical definition) does not give any space to the consideration of the experience of the condition.

This is where Alex Demetris’ comic Dad’s Not All There Anymore comes in. Demetris illustrates his father’s diagnosis and eventual move to a nursing home. Demetris’ book is devastating and heart-warming. He tells the story through the figure of John. When the narrative opens, we are visiting John’s father, Pete, in a nursing home. John speaks gently to two other elderly residents, one of whom is supine on the floor, before meeting his mother, Sue, in his father’s room. The chronology of Pete’s illness is told in flashback; we follow him from diagnosis with Parkinson’s in 2003, to the diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia in 2007 and the progression of the illness until John barely recognises his father. The personal story is interspersed with carefully worded explanations of the condition, its genesis and development that are pitched perfectly for readers who are not medics. This is the true success of this comic – that Demetris is able to create a work in which his father’s unique story and the more generic definitions of LBD sit in conversation with each other. We are in no doubt that this is a personal story and that it is the individual nuanced experience of the disease that is the focus, while the medical information exists within the text as an informative touchstone for the non-medic reader.

Demetris’ artwork is both expressive and simple. Plain line drawings with very little excess details are highlighted by shades of yellow-green. In places, there is a flash of red. When Pete starts to hallucinate a small red-haired child, she lurks as a faded red and creepily expressionless figure; she is almost a ghost. In another instance, Pete asks John what he sees in the corner. John sees a rack of coats; Pete sees the bright, terrifying face of a clown, to the horror of the clown-phobic John. In curious contrast to the muted and gentle colouration, the panels themselves are crowded. Each page contains at least 6 closely-packed panels, each one filled with a bustling image, topped with a caption or bubble or both. There is a lot to take in – both image and text – and at times the effect can be overwhelming. Where to look? What to read first? I would not wish to suggest that that chaos engendered by the reading experience can come close to mimicking the full horror and disorientation of LBD but it may go some way to mimicking the mental upheaval of supporting a family member.

All comics artists have a style and in that style is a peculiar ‘something’ that stands out. For Demetris, it is his exquisite use of eyebrows to create expression. In my own research, I have written about the importance of the eye as a frame to govern the emotion of the face within the panel. Demetris’ characters have no eyes, only small representative dots, and so it is for the eyebrows to do the talking. It is impossible to overstate how expressive Demetris’ characters are, a feat that is particularly impressive, given the limited use of detail in their faces. In the visually congested panels, the clearly rendered eyebrows on each face guide the narrative and emphasise the humanity of the characters, in moments of both comedy and tragedy.

Ask most people to name something that terrifies them and they are likely to rank dementia high on that list. I imagine that watching a loved one battle with dementia is equally terrifying. In the carefully rendered faces of John and Sue, there is immeasurable warmth. Indeed, one of the most striking features of the plot of this comic is the seemingly unwavering devotion of both characters to Pete and their tremendous patience with him as the disease progresses. It is one thing to say of a sick family member “he doesn’t mean to be trying, he’s not well – I will not hold it against him” and quite another to live these words and embody them. Demetris is not telling just any story of LBD, he’s telling his father’s story. The personal nuances of the story are the central focus of the narrative and the most compelling part of it. Pete was a teacher and regularly admonished his son for using the word ‘innit’ (“Don’t say ‘innit’ – it’s bad English”). At the book’s close, there is a final glimpse of the old Pete and his grammar policing ways (“… shouldn’t say ‘innit’… bad English…”). LBD may have him on his knees but he is still there and it is to this that his family cling. This is the heart; this is what moves this text beyond the crisp, cold definitions offered by Wikipedia and other encyclopaediæ. Instead of receiving the bare facts, the reader receives an insight into the day-to-day experience of the disease and the ravages it brings to bear on the individual and those around them. Demetris has etched out a fine line between text book and autobiography and is walking it with skill, panache and immense heart.

 

Dad’s Not All There Anymore by Alex Demetris is available from Singing Dragon Publishers.

ISBN: 978-1-84905-709-7

Price: £7.99

 

Related Reading

David M R Orr, Yugin Teo. Carers’ responses to shifting identity in dementia in Iris and Away From Her: cultivating stability or embracing change? Med Humanities 2015;41:2 8185

Martina Zimmermann. Deliver us from evil: carer burden in Alzheimer’s disease. Med Humanities 2010;36:2 101107

The Reading Room: A review of Matilda Tristram’s ‘Probably Nothing’

11 Dec, 14 | by cquigley

 

Probably Nothing: A diary of not-your-average nine months

Matilda Tristram

Reviewed by Nicola Streeten

Probably Nothing

 

Aged 31 and four months pregnant, Matilda Tristram was presented with an agonising dilemma following a diagnosis of stage three bowel cancer. In May 2013, The Guardian newspaper featured an interview with Matilda Tristram (Williams, 2014). It included an excerpt from what was to become her graphic memoir. The examples were small comic panels she drew as a way of telling people she knew what she was going through. The dilemma she faced was this: if she had chemotherapy it may save her life but may also cause miscarriage or damage to the baby. If she aborted the pregnancy and had chemotherapy, it may leave her infertile. If she didn’t have the cancer treatment she would be likely to die. My memory of The Guardian article is that the drawings were in black and white, which they weren’t. However, the situation was rather colourless.

Fast forward to 2014. Penguin has published Tristram’s full story, Probably Nothing: A diary of not-your-average nine months in full colour (Tristram, 2014). Tristram is well and glowing; the baby is alive and thriving. Curiosity lures the reader. How did she make the decision? Was it all straightforward? And the biggest question, how did she mentally and physically deal with such a rollercoaster ride through adversity? For me, the curiosity comes from knowing that a similar thing could happen to any of us or our loved ones and we may learn how to respond from reading Matilda Tristram’s diary. This is the pull of the graphic memoir, especially around subjects of illness and/or trauma. The drawing style Tristram has used is easy on the eye, encouraging the reader to engage directly with the narrative. Her deceptively simple drawings convey immediacy, as if it is happening right now. It is a diary, as the title asserts, and the drawings call to mind the styles of other graphic memoirs, such as Engelberg’s, Cancer Made Me A Shallower Person (2006) and Matsumoto’s My Diary (2008). The reader is there next to Tristram, invited into the intimacy of her experience for the duration.

Is it just another cancer memoir? It is another cancer memoir, but not just another. There are so many different types of cancer, with no two experiences or drawn interpretations the same and Probably Nothing offers a rich addition to the growing genre of graphic medicine literature. Tristram’s use of colour is striking. Speaking at Laydeez do comics (2014) she explained that initially she drew all the work in black line only. She was reluctant to add colour later, because she felt it would make it a bit less true or less real, but she is pleased with the result. The other two memoirs referenced here used the starkness of the black line. There is something about the use of watercolour wash in Probably Nothing that adds to the air of not really knowing what will happen next. The colour is allowed to bleed into the paper without control. In much the same way, the lives in the narrative unfold without control. The colour is not the loud, bright, bubble-gum positive outlook of Marisa Acocella Marchetto’s Cancer Vixen: A True Story (2009), which conveys a message of I will survive. In Tristram’s work, the colour seems rather to signify a quietly positive approach, an attitude of hopeful for the best but accepting of reality. The full colour and high quality production connotes comic as art. Matilda Tristram continues to work as an artist, trained in animation at the Royal College of Art, and lecturing at Kingston University. The publication clearly distances itself from an association with mainstream Superhero comics.

The drawing style is inviting for a non-comics audience, but I was not able to read it in one sitting. It is too relentless. I do not mean relentless in its gloom and trauma, for it is a story told with humour and lightness. It is tempting to use the term boring, but boring in a Mike Leigh film kind of way, in other words boring is not the right word either. It is to do with the disappointing reality of reality. As a reader, perhaps as a human, I cannot be alone in my hopefulness for a magic answer to life’s ills and pains. It is therefore constantly disappointing to find that there is no quick and easy solution. The message for me, if there was one, from Tristram’s narrative of her experience, is to take life little steps at a time in the face of adversity. There is a focus on the day to day, hour to hour– the importance and meaningfulness of the domestic. It is her use of humour that brings these details to life. The relationships with her partner and family are conveyed succinctly. For example, her mum falls asleep regularly in the waiting rooms, which is delightfully charming and funny. When they spend the day wandering round shops together, it is normal and unremarkable. Then Matilda notices the shop assistant noticing her colostomy bag. It is the noticing of the noticing in these instances that creates the gentle humour throughout the narrative. The attention to food also elevates the mundane. The reader experiences a stew or cheese on toast as more delicious than an everyday supper or lunch would normally be.

Every page has sixteen small panels and text is contained under the panels rather than integrated with the image, as is the more common comics convention. Sometimes the panels are slightly irregular, other times in uniform lines. But the 16 panel pages repeat and continue, as time does. Hilary Chute notes that trauma is often understood as repetition, which is what she says comics do so powerfully through the visual repetition. She endorses Cathy Caruth’s notion that “to be traumatized is precisely to be possessed by an image or an event” (Caruth quoted in Chute, 2010:183) It is Tristram’s repetition of the format of small panels of images and the repetition of herself within them which makes the comics form so successful in her presentation of her experience. It is her use of humour that makes this work not boring and not just another cancer memoir but a memorable, educational and moving story.

References

Acocella Marchetto, Marisa (2009) Cancer Vixen: A True Story New York: Pantheon Books

Chute, Hilary L. (2010) Graphic Women: Life Narrative & Contemporary Comics. New York: Columbia University Press

Engelberg, Miriam (2006) Cancer Made Me A Shallower Person. New York: Harper Collins

Matsumoto, Mio (2008) My Diary. London: Jonathan Cape

Tristram, Matilda (2014) Probably Nothing: A diary of not-your-average nine months. London: Viking, Penguin Books

Tristram, Matilda (2014) Laydeez do Comics, Foyles Bookshop, London. 15 September 2014

Williams, Zoe (2014) I Discovered I had colon cancer while I was pregnant. The Guardian [Online] 18 May 2013. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/may/18/discovered-colon-cancer-while-pregnant (Accessed on: 29 November 2014)

 

Nicola Streeten is an anthropologist-turned-illustrator and comics scholar, and the author of the graphic memoir Billy, Me and You (2011, Myriad Editions).

 

Ayesha Ahmad: CFP: Comics and Medicine: Navigating the Margins, 22-24 July 2012, Toronto, Canada

14 Mar, 12 | by Ayesha Ahmad

The third international interdisciplinary conference* on comics and
medicine will continue to explore the intersection of sequential
visual arts and medicine. This year we will highlight perspectives
that are often under-represented in graphic narratives, such as
depictions of the Outsider or Other in the context of issues such as
barriers to healthcare, the stigma of mental illness and disability,
and the silent burden of caretaking.

more…

Ian Williams: Graphic Medicine: Visualising the Stigma of Illness: Ian Williams

4 Oct, 11 | by Deborah Kirklin

The contribution of the medium of comics (referred to in the plural to denote both the physical printed object and the attendant philosophy) to medical discourse has begun, over the past few of years, to be explored by academics interested in illness narrative, patient experience and healthcare education. Autobiographical comics and graphic novels authored by artists who have experienced trauma or illness can be rich sources of patient narrative, opening a window into the world of others’ suffering or healthcare experience. more…

The Drama of Medicine-All the Ward’s a Stage: 8th Annual AMH Conference, 11-13 July 2011, University of Leicester,UK

13 Jun, 11 | by Deborah Kirklin

Plans for the 8th annual conference of the Association for Medical Humanities are now well underway, with an exciting line up of papers, workshops and plenary speakers. Celebrated poet and doctor Dannie Abse will be running a session entitled Poet in a White Coat; Jed Mercurio, author of Bodies and creator of the TV series Cardiac Arrest, will speak on the Doctor as Antihero;  Professor Laurie Maguire, from Magdalen College Oxford, will explore Shakespeare’s guide to health and illness; and Matthew Alexander from North Carolina, a leading authority on the use of cinema in medical education, will begin the conference with a workshop and plenary address on this subject. more…

‘Comics & Medicine: The Sequential Art of Illness’: Conference, Chicago, 9-11 June 2011

20 Dec, 10 | by Deborah Kirklin

This second international interdisciplinary conference* aims explore the past, present, and possible future of comics in the context of the healthcare experience.  Programs in medical humanities have long touted the benefits of reading literature and studying visual art in the medical setting, but the use of comics in healthcare practice and education is relatively new.  The melding of text and image has much to offer all members of the healthcare team, including patients and families.  As such, a subgenre of graphic narrative known as graphic medicine is emerging as a field of interest to both scholars and creators of comics. more…

Conference on Medical Narrative in Graphic Novels: Call for Papers

3 Dec, 09 | by Deborah Kirklin

Although the first comic book was invented in 1837 the long-format graphic narrative has only become a distinct and unique body of literary work relatively recently. Thanks in part to the growing Medical Humanities movement, many medical schools now encourage the reading of literature and the study of art to gain insights into the human condition.

A serious content for comics is not new but representation of illness in graphic novels is an increasing trend. The melding of text and visuals in graphic fiction and non-fiction has much to offer medical professionals, students and, indeed, patients. Among the growing number of graphic novels, a sub-genre exploring the patients’ and the carers’ experiences of illness or disability has emerged. more…

Can a comic a day keep the doctor away? GP Ian Williams thinks so

17 Dec, 08 | by Deborah Kirklin

In these uncertain economic times there seems to be a growing nostalgia for the more simple things in life. Home baking and dressmaking is on the rise and many families are anticipating a less commercialised festive get together. Although some of this return to basics is undoubtedly driven by economic imperatives, anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that this enforced trip down memory lane can be strangely comforting. 

Which might, in part, explain the increasing appeal that comics or graphic novels have for grown-ups as well as children. In this posting Dr Ian Williams explains how far from being “just for kids”, graphic novels can actually be good for everyone’s health. His posting not only makes interesting reading but also provides a handy excuse over the holiday season to Simpson’s fans around the world. 

One last thing: Ian Williams can, alas, accept no responsibility for any enjoyable moments or unanticipated sniggers experienced by visitors to the site. These are strictly unintentional. Remember, fellow professionals: this is work, not play.

more…

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