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East-West Dialogues: The Transferability of Concepts in the Humanities

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Edited By Christoph Bode, Michael O'Sullivan, Lukas Schepp and Eli Park Sorensen

This is an edited collection of essays drawn from collaborative events organized jointly by The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. The book focuses on how literary and cultural perspectives from different humanities academic environs in Asia and Europe might contribute to our understanding of the "transferability of concepts." Exploring ways in which these traditions may enter into new and productive collaborations, the book presents readings of a wide range of Western and Eastern writers, including Shakespeare, J.M. Coetzee, Yu Dafu. The book contains a virtual round table followed by four thematic sections – "Travels and Storytelling," "Translation and Transferability," "Historical Contexts and Transferability," and "Aesthetic Contexts and Transferability."

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Chapter 4: Disease, Transferability, and the Poetry of James Clarence Mangan and Owen Roe O’Sullivan: Michael O’Sullivan

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Michael O’Sullivan

Disease, Transferability, and the Poetryof James Clarence Mangan and Owen RoeO’Sullivan

Recent discussions on disease and virus tell us that disease knows no borders,1 it has no respect for class or creed,2 and it brings different research cultures together to work towards a shared goal.3 If we did not know disease and virus were the topics of these discussions, we might begin to align the effects described in society with some key aims of a shared humanities ethos spoken for through the bringing together of the essays in this volume. However, once disease and virus are revealed as the focus of the discussions, we immediately draw back; the comparison becomes unsightly. The thought experiment might only reveal to us how foolhardy it can be to draw metaphors from disease for use willy-nilly. Susan Sontag wrote in the 70s that it was not “morally permissible” then to use cancer as a metaphor because the disease had not yet even been “partly de-mythicized” (84). Despite our progresses in science and medicine, we might feel the same today about Covid-19. We do not fully understand it and the death and suffering it has caused move it beyond the realm of metaphor. In other words, if metaphor relies on a belief in a transferability of meaning to aid the transferability of concepts, then despite the fact that disease knows no borders, its unspeakable effects often leave it beyond the bounds of metaphoricity. And yet the meaning...

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