The Polyphony in 2018: Year of the Visual Turn?

In September 2018 The Polyphony introduced itself as a multi-authored, multi-faceted web platform in the service of the medical and health humanities. Four months later, our writers, columnists and editors have painted what I think is an incredibly exciting picture of the field.

Whether you are new to the site, or looking to catch up on some reading over the end of year break, our reviews of conferences and symposia are an excellent place to start. These range from events firmly within the medical humanities, such as Cultural Crossings of Care in Oslo, reviewed by Anna Magdalena Elsner, and Representing Pain in Lancaster, reviewed by associate editor Katrina Longhurst, to those with a more particular focus, such as the workshop at King’s College London about the observation, transformation and use of skin in Early Modern Europe, reviewed by Paolo Savoia, or the reflexive Researching Trauma in the Arts and Humanities at the University of Glasgow, reviewed by Anna Kemball. Dan O’Connor’s critical reflections on Beyond Bioethics gives a flavour of the book reviews to come in 2019; our reviews editor, Ryan Ross, has commissioned more than twenty-five reviews and suggestions for suitable books are always welcome. In her regular column PreSCRIPTion Leah Sidi offered a series of brilliant theatre reviews reflecting on the politics of disability and metaphor; Beata Gubacsi published what is to my knowledge the first medical humanities flavoured game review in her column Medical Humanities 2.0; and with Will Viney’s essay on the narrative complexities of the award-winning documentary Three Identical Strangers we ventured into film reviews.

The arts have featured prominently across The Polyphony in 2018. Nathan Fleshner’s column Did You Hear That Too? Music and the Medical Humanities uncovered traces of trauma in the music of Tori Amos and the Dave Matthews Band, while in her column The Arts and Heritage in Medical and Health Humanities, Victoria Hume brought the focus back on the precarious privilege of the practitioner within an arts in health context. However, it’s the visual turn in medical humanities that has been perhaps the most striking thematic focus on The Polyphony so far, thanks largely to our indefatigable associate editor Fiona Johnstone. From commissioning provocative exhibition and conference reviews, to a three-way conversation entitled Picturing Medicine, to a four-part series documenting the multi-disciplinary arts collaboration A Dry and Silent World, Fiona has ensured that regular readers of The Polyphony will be increasingly alert to the potential of visual culture and visual sources within the medical humanities.

Liz Orton, from the series Parallels for the Body #2. © Liz Orton.

Thank you to everyone who has written, read, shared or tweeted about work on The Polyphony – and to Sarah McLusky and designer Becca Doggwiler for the critical roles they play in keeping this platform ticking. We are always open to feedback, suggestions and guest contributions, so if you would like to join the conversation in 2019, do drop us a line.

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