Writing Illness Workshop

Wednesday, October 4, 2023 9:00 am - 5:00 pm EDT

Writing Illness: Women’s Experiences in the 19th-Century Sickroom 

This workshop brings together historians of medicine and literary scholars to investigate how self-care and nursing of sick family and friends influenced Germany’s 19th-century women writers, in particular, Annette von Droste-Hülshoff and Bettine von Arnim.  

Topics addressed:  

  • Relation of soma and psyche  
  • Self-care, self-discipline, and self-estrangement  
  • Quotidian dimensions of myopia, fever, exhaustion, and headaches   
  • Dietetics  
  • Physical process of writing  
  • Atmospheric impacts on health
  • Posture and Walking   
  • Homeopathy (since both women were avid proponents)  
  • How medical texts generate and categorize knowledge and writing about the body  
  • Mutability and suffering in nature  
  • Poetics of Micro-perceptions   
  • Grief and Death  


Thomas Wortmann (Mannheim), Martha Helfer (Rutgers), Vanessa Höving (Hagen), Martin Dinges and Marion Baschin (Bosch Institute for the History of Medicine). 

The cross-disciplinary approach of this workshop highlights collaboration in the medical humanities, disability studies, feminist studies, life writing, and 19th-century cultural studies.

This workshop draws on research supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

Stamp with Annette von Droste-Huelshoff

All are welcome to attend in person or via live-stream.

Event Details

Itinerary: To be announced

When: Wednesday, October 4, 2023

  • 9:00am - 5:00pm

Where: Westmount Boardroom in Federation Hall (200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, Ontario)

The University of Waterloo encourages but does not require the wearing of masks at public events.

Visitor Parking Available

In Lot M across the street from Federation Hall ($6 fee, payable by credit card). An interactive parking map can be found here. Once ticket has been purchased, please place on car dashboard.


Alice Kuzniar (akuzniar@uwaterloo.ca)