Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

Lesya Ukrainka and the Medical Humanities

Fri31  Mar03:00pm(15 mins)
Main Building Room 466


Melissa Miller1
1 Colby College, United States


Ukrainian writer and poet Lesya Ukrainka was chronically ill with tuberculosis of the bone for most of her professional life. This disease took her life in 1913 when she was only forty-two. Since Ukrainka lived before the advent of antibiotics, the treatment for her illness took the form of palliative care instead of cure. Though her disease was debilitating and often made writing difficult, she nonetheless left behind a varied collection of poetry and prose that thoroughly explored the philosophical and spiritual dimensions of pain, as well as what it means to inhabit an ill body which must still navigate the physical world. In this connection, this paper proposes to read Ukrainka's prose fiction through the interdisciplinary lens of the medical humanities. The medical humanities put particular emphasis on the importance of writing and storytelling as valuable tools that can facilitate healing. In Ukrainka's stories, we meet a wide variety of characters who are suffering from both physical and mental ailments. My paper will explore how the ability to cope with pain and suffering intricately depends on the agency one has to name their symptoms and narrate the course of their illness on their own terms. in the following stories: "The Moth" (1889), "A City of Sorrow (Silhouettes)" (1888), "Sonorous Strings (A Sketch)" (1898), "The Blind Man" (1902), and "The Mistake" (1905). Finally, I will analyze how Ukrainka uses these stories of illness to build empathy in readers.