Dementia and Cultural Narratives Symposium

Call for Papers
University of Aston, UK, 7-8 December 2017
Dementia and Cultural Narratives Symposium

In recent years we have witnessed a significant increase in the number and range of cultural representations of dementia (cf Swinnen and Schweda 2015). This is part of the growing visibility of age-related cognitive impairment in cultural and political life. As many critics have observed, this increasing visibility can have ambiguous impacts, as seen in the contemporary obsession with cognitive health in older age, or what Stephen Katz describes as ‘neuroculture’ (Katz, 2012). Similarly, warning of the dangers of ‘neuroagism’, Margaret Gullette argues that the diagnosis of dementia is often used as a totalising label that turns any sign and form of cognitive disorder into one pathological condition (2016). In the face of these concerns, a growing research culture is emerging that explores, interrogates, and evaluates the ways in which forms of dementia are being harnessed for diverse symbolic, aesthetic, and narrative purposes in TV, film, literature, the visual arts and theatre.

This symposium will explore the growing body of cultural representations of dementia. We invite papers that analyse not only how forms of dementia are represented, but also how different texts and contexts may occasion innovative textual strategies and demand different ways of reading/viewing. We hope to instigate discussion of dementia in culture across a range of texts and contexts, insisting upon the specificity as well as the shared dimensions of narratives of ageing and illness in the construction of cultural heritage. We welcome papers that analyse cultural narratives and that consider the theoretical and political issues at stake in the area of dementia and cultural narrative.

This symposium is the inaugural event of the new international Dementia and Cultural Narrative network. During the symposium, time will be devoted to discussing the development of the network and we hope that symposium participants will consider becoming active in this network. We will, of course, send out a summary of discussion to potential network members unable to attend the symposium.

Proposals should be approximately 250 words and accompanied by a short biographical note. We welcome papers from scholars at all stages of their careers.

This is a FREE event.

Potential topics for papers include, but are not limited to:
Auto/biography: narrating the self with dementia;
Problematising personhood in narratives of dementia;
Care and care settings in film and fiction;
Family and generational identity in stories of dementia;
Adaptation and narratives of dementia;
Metaphor and imagery in dementia narratives;
Historicising narratives of forgetting;
Memory, forgetting and narrative;
Visualising the self with dementia;
Performing selfhood in narratives of dementia;
Encounters with otherness in narratives of dementia;
Reception of and audience for narratives of dementia
Politics and personhood in dementia narratives.

This symposium is co-organised by the University of Aston and the University of Huddersfield, in conjunction with the Dementia and Culture Network. Please send proposals by Friday 15th September 2017 to Raquel Medina ( and Sarah Falcus (