The University of Leeds Centre for Medical Humanities invites you to the Oakley Memorial Lecture in Medicine and the Arts, entitled ‘Drawing as a Mode of Caring: Epigenetic Landscapes and Graphic Medicine’. The lecture will be given by Susan Squier (Penn State), with a response by Professor Margit Shildrick (Linköping University). The event will be on Thursday 12 October, from 5-6:30 pm,  with a reception to follow.

Although epigenetics has been hailed as a breakthrough medical field that can liberate us from the idea that we are controlled by our DNA, feminists have critiqued the field’s narrow affirmation of a linear, gene-centric, and ‘programmed’ approach to development. This talk reclaims the field’s original broader potential, contained in its initial image: a charcoal drawing of a river flowing through bramble-strewn banks toward the sea. Known as the epigenetic landscape, this image – commissioned by the field’s founder from the modern artist John Piper – embodies fundamental principles that have been abandoned as medicine has eschewed the haptic in favor of the digital. However, these properties have been preserved in several fields beyond biology that incorporate drawing as a mode of engagement with their material. We can take from them a more robust vision of epigenetics as a process of biological development. Examples from the fields of graphic medicine, landscape architecture (if we have time) and molecular parasitology will reveal how, incorporating the original impulses of the epigenetic landscape, they use drawing to enable empathetic attunement, awareness of complexity, and reciprocal interaction with life at the scale of the organism, the ecosystem, and the microbe.

Biographical information: Susan Squier is Brill Professor Emerita of English and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Penn State University, where she co-edits the Graphic Medicine book series, and the Einstein Visiting Fellow at the Freie Universität, Berlin, where she is part of the PathoGraphics project. She is the author, among other books, of Babies in Bottles: Twentieth Century Visions of Reproductive Technology; Liminal Lives: Imagining the Human at the Frontiers of Biomedicine; and Poultry Science, Chicken Culture: A Partial Alphabet. She is co-author of Graphic Medicine Manifesto, and her new book, Epigenetic Landscapes: Drawings as Metaphor, will appear in November 2017 from Duke University Press.


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