New doctoral short course: “Narrative Bioethics” (26th – 29th May 2015)

The KISS DTC, UCL Economic & Social Research Council DTC and the AHRC London Arts and Humanities Partnership have awarded funding to seven doctoral training activities situated at the interface of Social Science and the Arts and Humanities.

We are delighted to announce that one of the funded project is a short course on Narrative Bioethics, organized by Dr Silvia Camporesi (Department of Social Science,  Health & Medicine, KCL) and Dr Maria Vaccarella (Centre for the Humanities and Health, and Department of Comparative Literature, KCL).

This short course is open to students across King’s College London, School of Advanced Study (University of London) and University College London. Sessions will take place from May 26th to May 29th, 2015, 2 to 5 pm, room 3.1.1 East Wing, Strand Campus.


By definition, Bioethics is an interdisciplinary enterprise across the social sciences and the humanities. Narrative approaches to bioethics further emphasize this cross-field collaboration, as they employ narratological concepts to unpack the moral implications of stories in and beyond clinical settings. In addition, the universal quality of health and body related issues positions medicine (in its broadest sense) as the perfect ‘bridge’ for an interdisciplinary training across the Social Sciences, and the Arts & Humanities.

Quinn Dombrowski, "Good Narrative" (cc by-sa 2.0)
Quinn Dombrowski, “Good Narrative” (cc by-sa 2.0)

In this short course, we will adopt a ‘Case Stories’ approach to training, which is meant to expand the more traditional “case studies” approach, by taking into account the narrative qualities of cases. We will analyse and discuss bioethical issues and controversies, as they are represented in a variety of media: from literature to films, from literary journalism to graphic novels. While engaging in this shared formative arena and possibly discovering intriguing new ramifications of their research, our doctoral students will also work towards more discipline-specific training objectives. PhD students in Social Sciences will learn how to implement a bottom-up approach to Bioethics, grounded in a fine-grained description of cases, as opposed to top-down normative frameworks such as principlism. PhD students in the Arts and Humanities will learn how to tease out the ethical (alongside the aesthetical and political) implications of the cultural products and phenomena they are researching.


Each session would be structured around a mini-lecture in which we explore key narratological and bioethical concepts, analysis and discussion of one or more case story(/ies).

1) Introduction to Narrative Bioethics: Introduction to the field. What is a bioethics case? How do we acquire narrative competence?

2) Disability and Embodiment: Disability as a narrative, epistemic and ethical resource (Garland- Thompson). Embodiment in narrative and ethics. Case stories of counter-eugenic issues (e.g. prospective parents resorting to preimplantation genetic diagnosis to choose to have deaf children like themselves).

3) Unreliability and Cognition: Delusional patients and the reliability of first-person narrations. The construction of narrative empathy. Case stories of psychosis, dementia and cognitive impairment.

4) Agency and Alienation: Narrative construction of self, identity and agency, and their bioethical implications. Case stories of surgery, advance directives, and developmental disorders.

How to apply:

If you are interested in attending this course, please write to Dr Silvia Camporesi ( outlining your motivation for attending and your research interests. Numbers will be capped at 15 to facilitate small group discussion/interaction. Deadline: May 1st, 2015, 17:00  


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