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03/11/2012

Retelling familiar tales of pregnancy and birth in European cultures

CALL FOR PAPERS: Retelling familiar tales of pregnancy and birth in European cultures

Tues 3rd-Weds 4th July 2012, Oxford

Purpose of conference

This conference aims to bring together leading specialists from a range of the medical humanities with healthcare professionals to explore the trope of the retelling of stories about pregnancy and birth. While recent work has considered the way in which stories of exceptional pregnancies and unusual births have been told again and again over western history, from Greek mythology and the Old Testament until the present day, the methodological and intellectual questions raised by these retellings have not been discussed in detail. Taking a very broad geographic and chronological focus (Europe from Antiquity to the present day), our objective is to encourage innovative interdisciplinary exchanges by addressing the following questions. How did the growth of print culture in Europe encourage the retelling of familiar birthing tales, and how were new ones added? Why did some stories of pregnancy and birth circulate more widely than others? When stories are retold, which details of the original are always retained, which are lost in the retelling, and how and why do new accretions creep into the story?

Sessions

The gathering particularly looks to provide the opportunity for discussion and exchange on both substance and methodology between, on the one hand, a wide range of academic disciplines contributing to the medical humanities (e.g. cultural history, art history, history of the book, literary scholars) and, on the other hand, health-care practitioners who have been increasingly focused on the oral transmission of case histories (midwives, obstetricians and gynaecologists, psychiatrists). The four sessions proposed are thus wide-ranging and deliberately aim to juxtapose contributions from academics and practitioners in the various sessions.

1) The trope of repetition, or why some tales of pregnancy and birth are retold

2) Exploring accretion and loss: how tales are retold across time (Antiquity to the present) and across different geographic and cultural European contexts

3) Who sees or experiences, who tells and who reads repeated tales: patients, practitioners, witnesses and readers:

4) The significance of the material circulation of repeated tales in word and image

Keynote plenary session: Professor Monica Green (Arizona State University)

Practical Details

The conference sessions, including lunches and dinners, will be held in Lady Margaret Hall, a college of the University of Oxford, located in attractive grounds in the north of the city. We are looking to provide bed and breakfast accommodation in another Oxford college for the nights of 2-3-4 July 2012 for delegates who wish to take advantage of this. Alternatively, Oxford has a range of good guesthouses and hotels for those wishing to organise their own accommodation. We hope to have some bursary support available for students.

Submitting a proposal for a paper

Please email all proposals for papers to Professor Helen King (h.king@open.ac.uk) by 3 April 2012. Papers should last for 20 minutes to allow 10 minutes discussion after each speaker. A proposal should give the title of the paper, an abstract of up to 400 words, and your contact details. Proposals for shared papers or panels are particularly welcome, as are poster presentations. The working language of the conference will be English.

All proposals will be considered by the organising panel: Professor Helen King (Open University), Dr Janette Allotey (Manchester, Chair of De Partu History of Childbirth Group, University of Manchester, and Professor Valerie Worth (Trinity College Oxford)

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