Reading Pandemics

Reading Pandemics: From Boccaccio to Indigenous Futurism

Join us -- at a safe distance -- on this journey through the canonical and radical as we look to literary representations of pandemics in the past to help us understand the politics and possibilities of the present COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout this summer of the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty and students of the English Department at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) will analyze how pandemics are represented in literature across centuries, across genres, and across nation-states. This series will begin historically with Boccaccio, and wend its way through Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Poe, before opening up to consider how diverse authors represent and wrestle with the crises of pandemics, including Indigenous authors, African American authors, Latinx authors, Asian American authors, and queer authors.

How, for example, does Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower narrate neo-slavery through the prism of a pandemic? How does Romeo and Juliet become a different text once read through the prism of the Plague Orders of Elizabethan England? How do contemporary Indigenous authors make explicit that pandemics are not irruptions into the norm, but rather, should be understood as the norm of colonial capitalism?

Join us on this journey through the canonical and radical as we look to literary representations of pandemics in the past to help us understand the politics and possibilities of the present.

This series is edited by NEIU Assistant Professor, Ryan Poll.

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Poe, Pandemic, and Underlying Conditions

Rose by Ri_Ya (Pixabay License / Pixabay)

To read Edgar Allan Poe in the time of pandemic, we need to appreciate a very different aspect of his perspective—not that of a mimetic artist but of the political economist.

Read Timothy Scherman's article.

Taking a Page About Community and Responsibility from Albert Camus' 'The Plague'

Initially, the city of Oran does not take care of its most vulnerable populations in Camus' The Plague, and as a result, the city suffers for it. This parallels today's COVID-19 world.

Read Stephany Perez's article.

What's Love Got To Do with It? Shakespeare's 'Venus & Adonis'

Venus and Adonis by Titian (1554) (Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons)

The worn trope—Time Devours All Things (tempus edax rerum)—is true for human beings, says Shakespeare: if you're a mortal, death lurks at the heart of the very thing you most want. During a plague, or a pandemic, it's wanting that endangers us.

Read Bradley Greenburg's article.

Pandemics and Trumpian Echoes in Miller’s 'Blackfish City'

When we can't turn to the federal government for the truth, sometimes we need to turn to fiction. Sam J. Miller's Blackfish City maps a pandemic in America.

Read Megan Palm's article.

Why Boccaccio's 'The Decameron' Can Help Guide Us Through COVID-19

Portrait by Raffaello Sanzio Morghen - Sumner, Charles (1875) The Best Portraits in Engraving (5th ed.), New York City: Keppel & Co. OCLC: 17144657 (Public Domain / Wikipedia)

Rather than write about death and the world unfolding in the throes of the Black Plague, Giovanni Boccaccio instead wrote about the utopian potential of storytelling.

Read Ryan Poll's article.

Related Series: Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Image by TheDigitalArtist (Pixabay License / Pixabay)

#Coronavirus #COVID19 #Pandemic: Love in the Time of Coronavirus is a new and hopefully short-run PopMatters series of art and life and the art of living in these times of global health crisis.

Click here for the Love in the Time of Coronavirus special feature.

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