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Uses of art and literature

The group is interested in the many possible uses of art and literature, whether in theory, education, analytical practice or in empirical research. Our understanding of ‘uses’ is encompassing and indeed a major research thrust of the group is to explore what is implied and entailed by thinking about aesthetics in relation to notions of uses. We are especially interested in questions related to the many ways in which aesthetic works forge new connections, networks, and communities as they are appropriated by and indeed become entangled with their users. Through these processes of e.g. identification and attachment, the works influence and co-create users’ imaginaries, allowing us to recognize different forms of experience and attuning us to new forms of sociality as well as new understandings and experiences of health and well-being. As scholars engaged in interdisciplinary research we are conscious of methodological difficulties in tracing the social and health uses of art and literature. We by no means subscribe to the notion of the self-contained or autonomous aesthetic work, yet are equally reluctant to see works as mere illustrations or symptoms of extra-literary forces. Basically we ask the question of what the uses of art and literature may be in the present moment and we currently seek answers in two main topical fields all drawing on a common interest in developing new literary methodologies currently constituting our research thrusts:
  • SOCIAL. Humanistic welfare studies in the social and/or political uses of art and literature (current focus on analysing representations of class and gender in a broad sense in contemporary art and literature and on developing a new humanistic welfare research into matters such as infrastructure, migration, ageing and retirement and on accounting for actual uses of literature in the social sciences and society more broadly)


  • HEALTH. Health humanities and narrative medicine studies (aside from interpreting art and literature about matters of health we are interested in developing health humanities as a new area of teaching and research initiatives with special focus on patient involvement as well as creative writing and reading workshops in health studies in relation to promoting well-being and quality of life for different groups of people, including chronically ill patients, alcoholics, people afflicted with dementia)

    A major common goal is to discuss, map and develop new methodologies to carrying out these and other investigations inspired by actor network theory and other trends in post-critical hermeneutics and the new sociology of literature (surface reading, reparative reading, close description), by social science methodologies and digital and quantitative methods, as well as health science research traditions both quantitative and qualitative. We are inspired and seek cross fertilizations between theories of recognition, ethical literary criticism, affect theory; always with the goal of opening up and exploring relations between the users of art and literature and the field of other minds and phenomena.

    We are organized in several sub-groups where many core members co-participate and where many affiliated IKV as well as external members participate as deemed meaningful. These subgroups have own meeting structure and goals.

  • Wp1 on reading new work in literary theory. Co-convened by Rita Felski and Jon Helt Haarder
  • Wp2 on contemporary Danish literature. Convened by Anne-Marie Mai
  • Wp3 on class and contemporary art and literature. Co-convened by Peter Simonsen and Emily Hogg
  • Wp4 on narrative medicine. Co-convened by Anita Wohlmann and Anders Juhl Rasmussen
  • Wp5 on interdisciplinarity. Co-convened by Bryan Yazell and Klaus Petersen


Peter Simonsen (head of research group)

Rita Felski

Anne-Marie Mai

Claus Schatz-Jakobsen

Jon Helt Haarder

Camilla Schwartz

Anders Juhl Rasmussen

Anita Wohlmann

Emily J. Hogg

Alastair Morrison

Bryan Yazell

Ella Fegitz

Nicklas Freisleben Lund

Johanne Gormsen Schmidt

Marie-Elisabeth Lei Holm

Mathies Græsborg Aarhus

Sophy Kohler

Last Updated 11.02.2020