Call for Proposals: Keywords and Keyimages in Graphic Medicine

Edited by Lisa Diedrich and Briana Martino

We invite submissions for the edited collection Keywords and Keyimages in Graphic Medicine, which is under advance contract with Penn State University Press’s Graphic Medicine series. This project will offer a verbal and visual resource into the formal elements, theoretical concepts, practical and pedagogical tools, and health and illness politics of the field of graphic medicine. We are inspired by the work of literary and cultural studies scholar Raymond Williams and in particular his book Keywords, a text that articulated the politics of the vocabulary of culture and society. As the keywords framework risks reducing graphic medicine to only one component of the form, we have coined the term keyimages to indicate the significance of images, separate from and in relation to words, in the emergence and enactment of the field of graphic medicine.

Keyimages are visual tropes and iconography used by comics artists in their work, as well as aspects of the comics form that help create the vocabulary of graphic medicine. We want both comics artists and scholars of visual culture to contribute keyimages in order to provide specific examples but also a general formal method for reading the aesthetic, conceptual, and cultural work of the image in and for graphic medicine. By foregrounding keywords and keyimages together, our book will provide instruction on how to read both/and: both words and images, both visual condensation and verbal elaboration, both sequentially and simultaneously. We believe that demonstrating this both/and reading practice will benefit artists, cultural critics, health practitioners, as well as people dealing with the experience of illness in their everyday lives. 

While we think Keywords and Keyimages in Graphic Medicine will be of interest and use to a wide variety of health practitioners and health humanities scholars, we also think the project will appeal to readers and practitioners across a spectrum of fields and backgrounds, including comics studies, visual arts, cultural studies, disability studies, critical medical studies, and science and technology studies. For those both familiar with and new to the form, we hope this project will be a guide on what to look for and how to read graphic medicine/illness comics. Our book will demonstrate how graphic medicine/illness comics are symptomatic texts of our time: that is, texts that literally describe symptoms (and struggle with finding a form to describe the affective and physical experience of symptoms), and texts that describe illness as an event that goes beyond any particular individual’s experience and account of it, reflecting wider cultural categories, including race, gender, class, and sexuality.

We welcome proposals from comic artists, health practitioners, and/or academics. We are seeking proposals from comics artists to share keyimages in their own work and write a short 150-word statement about the keyimage. We are also looking for 300-word proposals for keyword/keyimage analysis papers from scholars/health practitioners. We are hoping to include around 50 keywords and keyimages. Final submissions will be 500-2000 words. Please send queries and submissions to and

Deadline for proposals is September 30, 2021

Mirror keyimage collage.

Keywords and keyimages: An A-to-Z sampling (not a comprehensive list!!)

Annotation, assemblage, affect, abstraction, alzheimer’s, amplification

Border, balloons, break, balance, bleeds

Caption, comix, cure/curation/curating, capsule, composition

Diagnosis, desire, drawing, doctoring, dot, direction, dimension

Experience, empathy, episode(ic), eyes

Form, feelings, frame, fold

Gutter, graph

Haptic. hand, hatching

Icon/iconography, images, ink, illness


Kinetic, knowledge(s)

Line, layout

Mirrors/mirroring, manga, media, movement, mimesis

Nib, nestedness, negative space

Onomatopoeia, OCD

Panel, page, perspective, photo-


Representation, realism, repetition

Subject/subjectivity, space, sequential art, splash, sound effect, sketchbook, shape, scale, stability

Treatment, trauma, time/temporality, technology, therapy
Unconscious, unflattening

Verbal and visual, voice)

Witness/witnessing, windows

X-ray, X chromosome

Y chromosome, yoga

ZAP!, zebra (diagnosis)

Eyes keyimage collage.

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