Stella Bolaki guest edits Journal of Medical Humanities: ‘Artists’ Books and Medical Humanities’

Artist's Books and Medical Humanities

Dr Stella Bolaki, Reader in American Literature and Medical Humanities in the School of English, has edited a special issue of The Journal of Medical Humanities on ‘Artists’ Books and Medical Humanities’.

The Journal of Medical Humanities is a peer-reviewed journal devoted to the interdisciplinary study of medicine and medical education. It is particularly interested in three areas of investigation: medical humanities, cultural studies, and pedagogy.

This special issue developed from Stella’s research project Artists’ Books and Medical Humanities. Bringing together international contributors who are artists, scholars, educators, and archivists, the special issue advances models of interdisciplinarity and collaboration that invigorate the fields of both artists’ books and the medical humanities. Collectively, the contributions demonstrate the importance of intimate, multi-sensory knowledge that this innovative art form offers in areas such as illness communication, pedagogy and public health. In addition to academic essays, the issue contains excerpts from five books that are part of Prescriptions: Artists’ Books, a recent acquisition of the University of Kent Special Collection & Archives. The books that were selected for inclusion in the special issue use different structures and formats. They were photographed in such a way so as to give readers the possibility to experience the powerful effects of artists’ books, a medium which requires touching and handling. Finally, the edition features a response to the material by renowned book artist and visual theorist Johanna Drucker.

Stella’s open-access article, titled ‘Contemporary Artists’ Books and the Intimate Aesthetics of Illness’, examines artists’ books by three contemporary female artists: Penny Alexander, Martha A. Hall and Amanda Watson-Will. Interrogating narrative’s dominance in medical humanities research, it explores how artists’ books represent lived experiences of illness in a distinctively palpable way. Drawing attention to the imaginative and aesthetic dimensions of such representations, the essay argues that artists’ books allow their makers an ‘intimate authority’ that extends beyond narrative legitimacy or a form of struggle against the medical gaze.

For more details, and to read some of the open access articles of this issue, please see the publisher’s website, here: