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About the network

NNM is a forum for the exchange and interaction of research, teaching and practices within the interdisciplinary field of literature, philosophy and medicine in the Nordic countries.

The last ten or fifteen years have witnessed an emergence of interest in the field of ”Narrative medicine” and ”Medical humanities” in the Nordic countries, which NNM wishes not only to support and develop but to help bring together. Internationally, the field of ”Literature and Medicine” has existed for forty years. It was established as a reaction to what was seen as de-humanizing tendencies in medicine. The study of literature and philosophy has now a central position within medicine, in particular in the USA and England.

Entering into a dialogue with these more established movements, and in view of the growing interest in the Nordic countries, now is the right time to implement a comprehensive Nordic research effort in studies of narratives in medicine. Furthermore, the initiative will strengthen the recent curiosity within literary studies world wide towards the question of its potential uses for the social and health sciences. The network will be closely related to The Niels Bohr Professorship Program of The Danish National Research Foundation The Uses of Literature: The Social Dimensions of Literature at University of Southern Denmark.

NNM will deal with four, mutually related approaches, each of which highlights ways in which the study of literature and philosophy can contribute to medicine. Firstly, literary narratives can by their content provide an insight into the individual experience of being ill and thereby a potential for empathy with the patients among medical practitioners. Secondly, close reading of literary texts and creative writing can offer competencies in the communicative aspects of medicine – between physician and patient, or between physician and nurse or other health care workers as well as between these and relatives. Thirdly, fictional and non-fictional narratives can stimulate a philosophical reflection on ethical and social dilemmas that face the participants in medical situations. Fourthly, interpretations of literature, and the philosophical discussion about, what interpretation is, can shed light upon the relationship between the emergence of medical (evidence-based) knowledge and other knowledge forms in the humanities.

As philosophy can address fundamental questions about the nature of literature, NNM will also explore philosophical approaches to literature in the field of medicine and how literature can benefit from philosophical reflections. Narratives in medicine raise philosophical issues that touch on imagination, empathy, attention, reflection, ethics, truth, etc. NNM intends to engage in all of these issues. Together, literature and philosophy form a potent partnership that can infuse different perspectives on narratives.

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