'Flash' writing anthology about chronic pain - submissions welcome!

Category: News

ANNOUNCING SYMPOSIUM: Representing Pain: Fragments and Narrative

Representing Pain:  Fragments and Narrative
A symposium at Lancaster University

Friday 17 August 2018, 9:00 am -5.30 pm

I am delighted to announce a Symposium to be held at Lancaster University on Friday 17 August, exploring the challenges pain poses to traditional narrative representation, and the way it may require rethinking narrativity or embracing unconventional or fragmentary narrative forms. 

The Symposium is part of the AHRC-funded research network Translating Chronic Pain, which is especially exercised by the way that conventional illness narrations (long form autobiography/memoir) don’t always lend themselves well to chronic pain experience.  The symposium will explore the broad debates around narrativity in medical humanities, the potential of short-form narration or unconventional forms of illness narration,  the positivity imperative in illness narration, challenges of chronic pain representation, and the way ‘entanglements’ with fields such as disability studies and trauma theory may enrich critical medical humanities approaches to these questions.  

The network brings together academics, pain charities and people living with chronic pain, to explore how short-form creative writing may support people living with chronic pain, raise awareness, and enhance healthcare training.  Among other things, the network is exploring ‘flash’ illness writing, and we have produced a web-based public anthology of creative work in this vein at the project website. The call for creative work remains open.  (5-150 words) of prose, poetry, optionally alongside artwork  or comic/sequential art.  For details please see http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/translatingpain/creative-manifesto/ .   

Confirmed symposium speakers include: Dr Angela Woods (Durham), Dr Stella Bolaki (Kent),  Professor James Berger (Yale), Dr. Megan Crowley-Matoka (Northwestern), Professor Ann Jurecic (Rutgers), Professor Brendan Stone (Sheffield), Professor Alan Bleakley, and Professor Javier Moscoso (Research Professor of History and Philosophy of Science, Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales, Spain).

Accommodation and partial travel bursaries are also available for six postgraduate students or early career researchers.

For more information please visit the project website at http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/translating-pain or email S.Wasson@lancaster.ac.uk.


‘Before Narrative: Episodic Reading and Representations of Chronic Pain’

The first publication of the Translating Chronic Pain project is now available.

Sara Wasson, ‘Before Narrative: Episodic Reading and Representations of Chronic Pain’, Medical Humanities 43 (5 January 2018): 1-7.


This article suggests that some illness experience may require a reading practice less concerned with narrative coherence or self-authorship, and more interested in the value of textual fragments, episodes and moments considered outside a narrative framework. Chronic pain can pose multiple challenges to the narrative orientations celebrated in both ‘survivorship’ discourse and classic medical humanities scholarship. In its recalcitrance to cure, its often mysterious aetiology and its complex blend of somatic, interpersonal and affective elements, representations of chronic pain can require a richer vocabulary of temporality. I draw on contemporary affect theory to augment the available critical vocabulary for the textual representation of protagonists’ temporal orientation within illness experience, identifying a language for the emergent present that resists a narrative form. Beyond identifying narrative ‘incoherence’, affect discourse gives a way to recognise the strained, equivocal labour of incoherence, of inhabiting a cryptic present moment. Affect theory’s attention to the emergent present may give a way to read incoherent ‘chaos’ outside from a narrative framework, not only as a dark, formless stage in a personal story. To expand our vocabulary for this position, I offer a term for a particular affective experience of the present amid repeated marginalisation: the temporality of thwarted connection. I illustrate how these concepts can enable an alternative reading stance by offering a brief analysis of Lous Heshusius’s hybrid autobiography and academic study, Chronic Pain from the Inside Out.

Free Creative Writing workshop (Manchester, 24 February); and Call for Creative Work

As part of the AHRC-funded project Translating Chronic Pain, we are running a free creative writing workshop in Manchester on Saturday 24 February.

I am also delighted to invite submissions of  short-form creative writing around the experience of chronic pain, i.e. short works (5-150 words) of prose or poetry, optionally alongside artwork , or comic/sequential art.  Please see the call for creative work.  We welcome submissions.

best wishes

Sara Wasson

Writing Pain: Creative Summit, Saturday 21st October 2017

We are delighted to be launching this network at the end of July 2017.

The first event is going to be a Creative Summit on Saturday 21 October at Lancaster University. This event will bring together people living with chronic pain,  representatives of pain charities, medical practitioners, creative writers, and literary scholars.  Together, we will explore how short, episodic writing may be of use to a diverse range of constituencies: people living with pain, carers, healthcare practitioners and others.

Our remarkable speakers will include the creative writers Jenn Ashworth (Lancaster) and Laura Joyce (UEA); graphic novelist and physician Ian Williams; photographer and academic Deborah Padfield (Slade), and Anthony Jones, Professor of Neuro-Rheumatology (Manchester), among others.

A few places are still available.  If you would be interested in attending, please contact Sara Wasson through the contact form below and we will send you more information!