Interdisciplinary Conference, sponsored by the Trillium Gift of Life Network and the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures
To be held at the Munk Centre at the University of Toronto, April 26-27, 2007
Keynote speaker: Dr. Michael Hutcheon
Lately, the topic of organ and tissue donation has featured prominently in the media. As a result, the public is frequently faced with a moral conundrum: Is it ‘fair’ for one person to receive an organ, and thus a second chance at life, while another has to die? What effect does the donor’s final ‘act’ have on her/his family and friends? In what ways is the recipient transformed? Are recipients entitled to the organs they receive? To what degree is the recipient the steward of the donor’s organ(s)? Are medical professionals involved in the process playing God?
In order to advance and increase the rate of donation, health care professionals working on organ and tissue donation are forced to examine and discuss many aspects of these and other questions. But this is not just the domain for the medical professions; members of various non-medical constituencies are also involved in important ways. In fact, the questions of organ donation seem to challenge the easy boundaries between scientific and non-scientific discourses.
This conference aims to explore artistic and philosophical treatments of the subject of organ and tissue donation and transplantation, as well as the intersections of life and death, and art and science in more general terms.
Possible areas of exploration may include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:
History: Concepts of organ functions (and possibly ideas of transplantation) in the ancient (Egyptian, Greek, Roman)/mediaeval/early modern world
Mythology: e.g. the myth of Prometheus, whose liver grows back after an eagle eats away at it
Literature: e.g. Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never let me go (2005), John Irving’s The Fourth Hand (2001), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818)
Film: e.g. Micheal Bay’s The Island (2005), Alejandro González Ińárritu’s 21 Grams (2003), Stephen Frears’ Dirty Pretty Things (2002)
TV Drama: To what extent do TV shows such as ER, House, Grey’s Anatomy, and Scrubs inform the public’s view about organ and tissue donation?
Traditional associations: How do romantic notions of the connection of certain body parts with specific emotions (the heart in connection with love, eyes as the windows to the soul, etc.) inform the choices we make regarding organ donation?
Fine Art: For centuries, both professionals and the public learned about the human body and its anatomy through art (the Renaissance being the most prolific period in this regard). Intentionally or unintentionally, to this day, depictions of this kind in mass culture affect real outcomes, inviting the question whether artists bear a moral responsibility when dealing with medical issues.
Intersections between art and medicine: How and to what degree do these two disciplines inform each other in the work of people who practice (or have studied) both (e.g. G.E. Lessing, Arthur Schnitzler, Sigmund Freud, Gottfried Benn, Alfred Döblin, Arthur Conan Doyle, James Joyce, W. Somerset Maugham, Anton Chekhov, etc.)?
Do the controversial Body Worlds exhibits by Gunther von Hagens establish a dialogue between art and medicine, or do they merely strip the exhibited, skinless bodies of their dignity, as some critics argue?
Philosophy: How are ideas of the soul affected by changing the body, or parts thereof, which “houses” this soul?
Please submit a brief abstract (200-400 words) by November 15, 2006 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Papers should not exceed 20 minutes (8-10 pages double-spaced).
University of Toronto
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