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Call For Papers – ‘Shame and Medicine’ Literature and Medicine Theme Issue




Spring 2025

Issue Editors: Arthur Rose and Luna Dolezal

This issue of Literature and Medicine will explore experiences of shame in literary and medical contexts. Characterized as a “master emotion” and “keystone affect,” shame is a negative self-conscious emotion we experience when we feel that we are seen and judged by others to be flawed or inadequate in some crucial way. Shame can be alienating, isolating, and deeply disturbing. At the same time, shame is transformative; we cannot live or grow without it. It can teach us “right” and “wrong” in terms of what is expected within personal, familial, cultural, social and political contexts. Shame, then, connects us to the broader nexuses of value within which our lives have meaning.

In medicine, shame is a powerful and pervasive force. For patients, shame is a frequently undisclosed, yet profound, experience related to illness and encounters with healthcare professionals, often coinciding with stigmas associated with the type of illness and the identity of the patient (as marked by race, gender, sexual orientation, class and ability). For healthcare practitioners, shame is implicated in individual instances of “burn out,” bullying, medical error, and disciplinary procedures as well as in certain institutional dynamics, aspects of medical education, and other processes of professional identity formation. For wider communities, shame is commonly used as a tactic in public health campaigns to motivate “positive” lifestyle changes. Despite its prevalence in medical culture and contexts, shame tends to be unacknowledged, unthematized, and unspoken, “the elephant in the room” in clinical environments.

If shame is difficult for medicine to confront, it remains a challenge for literary representation as well. As Elspeth Probyn notes in her essay “Writing Shame,” “shame is a painful thing to write about.” Considering the relation between shame and literature as it develops over the twentieth century, Timothy Bewes theorizes the development of “a literature that begins to constitute itself formally out of a sense of its own inadequacy.” For Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, shame limns the borders between what is performatively acknowledged in a text and what this performance seeks to cover up: “Shame is the affect that mantles the threshold between introversion and extroversion, between absorption and theatricality, between performativity and – performativity.” If shame challenges us to rethink the culture of medicine and the writing of literature, then, this themed issue on Shame and Medicine asks, how might these two concerns be brought into productive (mis)alignment with each other?

We invite abstracts that consider the writing and representation of shame as it might appear in fields such as the health and medical humanities, cognitive literary criticism, and narrative medicine. Abstracts can be in interdisciplinary dialogue with sociology, philosophy, history, psychology, anthropology, media and cultural studies, or performing and visual arts. We also encourage and welcome intersectional methodologies, for instance in connection with feminist theory, disability and LGBTQ+ studies, or critical race theory. In any instance, proposals should consider literature or medicine, or both, in their broadest sense, as points of reference, and may fit one of these topical categories:

Strong submissions that do not quite fit into this issue as it takes shape will be considered for inclusion in general issues of the journal.

Deadline for submission of Abstracts (300-500 words): November 1, 2021.

Deadline for submission of Full Papers: March 1, 2023.

Send abstracts and address inquiries to Arthur Rose: and/or Luna Dolezal:


Call for Papers and Guidelines for Contributors

Literature and Medicine is a peer-reviewed journal publishing scholarship that explores representational and cultural practices concerning health care and the body. Areas of interest include disease, illness, and health; the cultures of biomedical science and technology and of the clinic; disability; and violence, trauma, and power relations as these are represented and interpreted in broadly defined archives of verbal, visual, and material texts. Literature and Medicine features one thematic and one general issue each year. Past theme issues have explored identity and difference; contagion and infection; cancer pathography; the representations of genomics; and the narration of pain.

Literature and Medicine is published semiannually. Submissions on any aspect of literature and medicine will be considered, but the journal rarely publishes short notes, personal essays, or creative writing. Authors are advised to look carefully at past issues of the journal (available on the journal website) before submitting their work. Manuscripts should be between 5,000 and 9,000 words in length. Please include an abstract of 100–150 words, and 3–5 keywords. All submissions should have text, end notes, and bibliography double-spaced and prepared according to guidelines in The Chicago Manual of Style, current edition. Authors will be responsible for securing permission to include visual images, figures, or verbal quotations that exceed fair use. Authors’ names should appear only on a cover sheet, and any identifiers in the text should be masked so manuscripts can be reviewed anonymously. Literature and Medicine reviews only unpublished manuscripts that are not simultaneously under review for publication elsewhere.

Manuscripts must be submitted in digital form (.doc, .docx, or .rtf) through our website:

Correspondence should be sent to Arthur Rose:




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