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Dissecting the Page: Medical Paratexts

Dissecting the Page: Medical Paratexts

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Funded by:  Wellcome Trust

Main contact:  Dr Hannah Tweed

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This project draws together two emerging and complementary areas of research in the medical humanities: book history (as it pertains to medical texts), and the study of medical paratexts. We understand paratext as the apparatus of graphic communication: title pages, prefaces, illustrations, marginalia, and publishing details which act as mediators between text and reader. The first conference on the topic took place on Friday 11 September 2015 at the University of Glasgow, discussing the development of medical paratexts across scribal, print and digital media, from the medieval period to the twenty-first century.

From Christina Lee and Freya Harrison’s discovery of the MRSA-combatting properties of an Anglo-Saxon recipe, to the increasing popularity of Ian Williams’ Graphic Medicine as a teaching tool for medical students, current research into the intersections between medicine, text, and image is producing dynamic and unexpected results (Thorpe: 2015; Taavitsainen: 2010; Couser: 2009; Cioffi: 2009; Díaz-Vera: 2009). We propose that the breadth of research into medical book history in the medieval and early-modern period will prompt productive and innovative overlaps with work on modern medical paratexts and graphic novels. By focusing exclusively on medical paratexts, our aim is to establish an interdisciplinary network of scholars interested in graphic communication and medical practice.

An edited collection entitled 'Dissecting the Page: Medical Paratexts, Medieval to Modern' is currently in preparation. Topics include: the role of the medical preface; graphic medicine in popular culture; medicine, illness, and/or disability and graphic novels; the development and role of medical (and medicalised) illustrations; the advertising and placement of texts depicting medicine/illness/disability; the development of paratext in medical texts from script to print; the use and readers of medical texts; auto/biography and medicine; online medical writing, publishing, and paratexts.

Image Credit: University of Glasgow Library, Special Collections