In this second panel from our Brighton conference, four presenters use interdisciplinary analysis in the arena of comics and medicine. The panel was chaired by Michael Green.
Martha Turland presents “Growing, growing, growing, stop: Selective emphasis in informal, clinical drawing encounters”
Recently during an appointment at an orthopedic pediatric department opportunities for knowledge exchange arose, through x-ray, examination and dialogue. But interestingly, whilst being guided and informed on the particular issue in question, the ancient technology of drawing took centre stage. What is intriguing is how the very act of drawing, in this type of setting, underscores its communicative potential. In an environment of technically advanced digitised medical imaging the focus of this paper is specifically on hand drawings created by medical professionals to communicate ‘in the moment’. Making the drawing relies, in part, on the principles of sequencing. Instead of there being individual frames, as in a comic, the sequence is overlaid in one drawing. The finished article does not look like a comic but the process shares many similarities. These drawings are not made to be preserved or admired, they are rarely elegant or visually satisfying but they are often called upon as a very efficient method of conveying information. Creating the drawings is a deeply social experience, likely to encourage those involved to crowd over the table fully engaged in the act of drawing and the information being transmitted. Debates surrounding ethics & conduct are increasingly considered as part of clinical training in relation to language register. Drawing, too, has a grammar and syntax. Analysing the act of making a drawing in this context is a rich territory for ethical investigation and research. This paper will explore these issues with reference to Barthes’ theories of anchorage and relay and the ideas of McCloud, Sabin and Versaci in relation to comics. It will note more recent investigations into collaborative drawing (Rogers 2008 & Lyon et al 2012) and the relationship between clinical diagnosis and the established Visual Arts practice of ‘looking’ (Bardes 2001).
Martha Turland is a senior lecturer in the School of Humanities, University of Brighton.
Esther Bendit Saltzman presents, “Aesthetics and Ethics: How Doom Patrol and Frankenstein: the Graphic Novel Can Speak for Patients with Changes in Body Image”
“Normal people [are] to be envied,” says Tom Peyer in the introduction to Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. Morrison’s characters are superheroes whose gifts are abnormal; most appear abnormal as well. While the characters’ deviations from “normal” are what allow them to combat evil, they continue to experience the pain that comes with their differences. In contrast, Victor Frankenstein’s creature in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein must endure the pain of his ugliness and is unable to make a positive contribution to society. Both narratives question normalcy in relation to physical appearance. Both explore the implications of aesthetics and how deviations from what is considered normal affect the quality of life. Doom Patrol allows us to view the characters and relate our impressions to the reactions of other characters. Shelley’s work allows us to ponder aesthetics without visual image. The issue of what is aesthetically pleasing or grotesque in Frankenstein, though, takes on new dimension if one examines Classical Comics’ version of Shelley’s novel, Frankenstein: the Graphic Novel. By examining Doom Patrol and Frankenstein: the Graphic Novel, we can explore the implications of how physical appearance can be viewed as a disability, and the implications that this idea has for patients who experience a change in body image. In this presentation, I will argue that these graphic novels provide unique opportunities for the discussion of these aesthetic and ethical issues. By examining, through text and image, the characters’ emotional responses to their own differences and the responses of other characters to them, we can appreciate the extent to which these graphic novels can initiate the discussion of ethical responsibilities for practitioners of medicine, nursing, and psychology.
Esther is a nurse, and a PhD student at the University of Memphis.
Lorenzo Servitje presents: “Vivisecting Gynecology: Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s From Hell and the Violent Practice of Nineteenth-Century Surgical Pioneer J. Marion Sims”
Since its publication, Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell’s graphic novel From Hell has received a significant amount of critical attention. Retelling the Jack the Ripper Whitechapel murders through the unique medium has attracted both comics and Victorian culture studies scholars alike. While From Hell depicts the story of perhaps the most infamous murders of women in British history, I suggest this ripper account can be taken out of its narrative historical context and be used as an allegorical lens to read another violent opening of female bodies across the Atlantic Ocean and a few decades prior to the Whitechapel murders. Moore and Campbell’s retelling, like many Ripper narratives, construct the “history” around a particular suspect. By pointing the finger at the one of the most prominent physicians of the time, Sir William Gull, From Hell provides a unique opportunity to read the violent, misogynistic origins of modern gynecology. In this paper, I argue that From Hell can be used to revisit Marion Sims’ “pioneering” surgical experiments on female slaves which lead to technological advances in gynecological surgery and the development of speculum. Through an analysis of the interplay between image and text and light and darkness in From Hell, I propose a reading where the violence of the ripper murders can function as an allegory for the violence of Sims’ medical experimentation. This exposes his violence on the female body by the male medical gaze, allowing the progressive technological accomplishments of his unethical practices to be defamiliarized and underscored. This reading generates a unique reflection of the patriarchal, misogynistic, and violent roots of modern gynecology. The implications of this form of ahistorical allegorical reading suggests that the medical humanities can extend the study of graphic fiction beyond the strict scope of a comic’s narrative milieu, an author’s intention, or literal reading to reflect on a wider and creative range of medical education and theorization applications.
Lorenzo is a graduate student in English at the University of California at Riverside. His research areas are 19th Century British Literature, Medical discourse, Technoculture, and New Media.
Vannaboon Phag-Udom presents, “Manga and role-modeling in medicine: the super hero doctor.”
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