Medical Spaces in Literary Prose of the Long 20th Century

Medical settings are a prominent motif in 20th-century literature. In novels, short stories, and autobiographical texts, readers repeatedly find characters stumbling through disconcerting autopsy rooms and mysterious laboratories, hospital trains, operating theatres, and radiation rooms. During the same period, the medical system evolved rapidly, bringing about novel, highly specialized spaces: from pathological institutes and X-ray-laboratories, to large clinical centers and intensive care wards. This four-year project explores these connections between literature, medicine, and wider culture, thereby deepening our understanding of the role of literature in the still ongoing process of medicalization.

British Hospital Train France 1918

Neurosurgical operation theatre (Götz Schlese)

With a public lecture series on the topic of ‘hospitals’; speakers are eminent writers, medical historians, ethicists, and hospital architects.