Reading & Writing the Body

Three photos: 1) A tired female doctor sits cross-legged in a hospital corridor with a face mask pulled down. 2) A woman's hands clasp the hands of a hospital patient in a bed. 3) A couple embraces in front of a blue and yellow train in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Posted in Symposia

Lannan Symposium: February 6-8, 2023

The body, especially the sick, aging, traumatized, disabled, female, black, brown or queer body, is as much the territory of regulation and conflict as the ownership of property or wealth. The Lannan Symposium gathers writers, medical professionals, ethicists, and journalists for a series of nightly discussions, each centering upon the body as a site of impassioned, often political, and always complex debate.



Surviving in the Aftermath

Location: Copley Formal Lounge (GU ID Required for Entry)

Meghan O'Rourke Headshot

6:00PM | A Conversation with Meghan O’Rourke, Author of The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness.

7:00PM | A Panel Discussion with Rabih Alameddine (The Angel of History), Meghan O’Rourke (The Invisible Kingdom), and Dr. Daniel Marchalik, moderated by Tope Folarin. More than just a sickness, pandemics are the place where illness meets politics. Today we live in the aftermath of two great pandemics, the AIDS pandemic of the 1980’s and the COVID-19 pandemic. How has our society and how have we been changed by those events? What is the role of the writer as activist or custodian of memory in the story of the aftermath?

8:30PM | Medical Humanities Scholars Symposium


How We Die

Location: Copley Formal Lounge (GU ID Required for Entry)

Diane Rehm Headshot

6:00PM | A Discussion with NPR’s Diane Rehm and Dr. Ewan Goligher

Followed by a Panel Discussion with Dr. Lydia Dugdale (Columbia University), Dr. Ewan Goligher (University of Toronto), Diane Rehm (NPR), and Dr. Katalin Roth (George Washington University), moderated by journalist John Donvan. Should we be able to choose how and when we die? And what are the real-life consequences of laws that allow for medical assistance in dying? An international panel of physicians, writers, and ethicists set the stage for a discussion of philosophical, practical, theological, and personal implications of medical assistance in dying.


Body Image

Location: Maria & Alberto De La Cruz Art Gallery, 3535 Prospect St NW

Top image: Mecca Jamilah Sullivan headshot. Bottom: Baseera Khan Headshot

4:30PM | A Conversation with Mecca Jamilah Sullivan (Author of Big Girl) and Artist Baseera Khan, moderated by Prof. Nadia Brown.
If a body could speak, what would it say? The way our bodies are viewed and categorized is not always within our power. A writer and a visual artist reflect upon representing, in words and images, the experiences which come with existing in bodies: black, brown, queer, female, Muslim, big – defined by systems of power beyond our control.

Writing through Trauma

Location: Copley Formal Lounge (GU ID Required for Entry)

Natasha Tretheway Headshot

6:00PM | Natasha Trethewey, former U.S. Poet Laureate

7:00PM | A Panel Discussion with Aminatta Forna, Nancy Sherman, and Natasha Trethewey, moderated by journalist Jacki Lyden. What role can language play in reconciling trauma, both national and personal? Writers Natasha Trethewey (Memorial Drive) and Aminatta Forna (The Devil that Danced on the Water) reflect on the role of storytelling in healing the psychological aftermath of violence and war, together with ethicist Nancy Sherman (Afterwar: Healing the Moral Wounds of Our Soldiers).

Student Quotes

Natasha Trethewey Keynote

“Natasha Trethewey’s speech tonight was stunning and for the most part I simply sat in awe of her beautiful prose. I also enjoyed her musings on the craft of writing. Two of her statements stuck out to me and stayed with me: that metaphor does not simply reflect life but in fact helps to change it, and that many people are ‘hurt into poetry.’”

Meghan O’Rourke Keynote

“Meghan O’Rourke gave a fantastic talk about the silent epidemic of chronic illness. I found her discussion of writing through her sickness and finding the best way to tell her story to be really inspiring.”

How We Die Panel

“I found this panel discussion [How We Die] incredibly fascinating and surprising, especially with the level of civility and respect that was maintained throughout the entire conversation.” 

“I think this moment actually demonstrates why disciplines like medical humanities are so important; they help doctors, writers, and ethicists get to the core of disagreements on these impactful decisions.”

“The panel made me think a lot about the different lenses we look at this topic, especially the similarities and differences that arise from looking at the topic from a theoretical and moral perspective versus the reality of the society and healthcare system we live in today.”

“I already came in with a strong opinion on supporting medical assisted death, but the symposium opened my eyes to points that I had not thought about before, and I appreciate the other side’s argument.”