BA, Athens; MSc, PhD, Edinburgh
Dr Stella Bolaki is Reader in American Literature and Medical Humanities. She joined the University of Kent in 2011. Previously, she was Lecturer at the University of Glasgow, having taught before that at the University of Edinburgh, where she also completed her MSc and PhD.
She has held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) and has been Co-Director of Scottish Universities’ International Summer School (SUISS), which offers courses in literature and creative writing. At Kent, she is founding member of the Medical Humanities Research Cluster and is affiliated with the Centre for Gender, Sexuality and Writing, the Centre for American Studies, and The Kent Embodied Research Collective.
Stella’s primary research specialisms are in narratives of illness and disability, critical medical humanities, and in ethnic American literature. They further include Black feminist studies and cultural theory. Her first monograph Unsettling the Bildungsroman: Reading Contemporary Ethnic American Women’s Fiction (Rodopi, 2011) considers the continuing relevance of the Bildungsroman in an ethnic American and postcolonial context focusing on the work of Jamaica Kincaid, Sandra Cisneros, Maxine Hong Kingston and Audre Lorde. Her second monograph Illness as Many Narratives: Arts, Medicine and Culture (Edinburgh University Press, 2016) explores contemporary representations of illness across different arts and media, including photography, performance art, film, theatre, animation and online narratives. Moreover, she has co-edited Audre Lorde’s Transnational Legacies (University of Massachusetts Press, 2015) and the exhibition catalogue Prescriptions: Artists’ books on wellbeing and medicine (Natrix Natrix Press 2017). Her work has appeared in journals such as Literature and Medicine, Mosaic, Medical Humanities, Textual Practice, and the Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies.
Stella’s recent research on contemporary artistic practice in the context of health, illness and disability has a collaborative and public engagement dimension, and has been awarded funding from the Wellcome Trust, the British Academy and the Division of Arts and Humanities at Kent. Her project Artists’ Books and the Medical Humanities helped establish the ‘Prescriptions: Artists’ Books’ special collection, based at the University of Kent’s Templeman Library. The project consisted of an exhibition of artists’ books curated with the artist Egidija Čiricaitė (Prescriptions, Beaney Art Museum, Canterbury, 21 April-25 September 2016), an interdisciplinary symposium co-organised with the Maine Women Writers Collection (University of New England), and a series of workshops for health professionals, artists and the wider public. Stella has developed her collaboration with the Maine Women Writers Collection through another series of events at the University of New England, where she was also hosted as a researcher in the summer of 2017. Ideas relating to this project have also appeared in a guest-edited special issue on artists’ books and the medical humanities for the Journal of Medical Humanities, essays for the Routledge Companion to Literature and Disability and the Routledge Handbook of the Medical Humanities, as well as in blog posts for The Polyphony and the British Academy.
Stella is currently working on a new monograph that explores how ideas and practices of self-care are interrogated and articulated in contemporary literature and culture, across a wide range of genres and cross-media representations. This project draws on historical, philosophical, medical, activist and other interdisciplinary material.
Stella teaches a variety of modules in American and contemporary literature and contributes to teaching in the School of English at all levels. She is also the Director of Kent’s MA in Medical Humanities. Her approach to teaching embeds research and working with visual material, including in archives, and has been shaped by outreach and external collaboration. Stella is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) and has served as external examiner for taught programmes and PhDs in several institutions.
Stella has supervised PhDs on a wide range of topics including literature and neuroscience; speculative fiction; crafts and making as affective social practices; mental health; addiction; health and illness in postcolonial fiction; and creative/critical writing projects exploring the body and embodied practices. She was successful in securing a CHASE-funded collaborative doctoral award to co-supervise a project on the culture, politics and lived experience of health in Wellcome Collection’s zines. She would be keen to supervise doctoral research relating to any of her research interests. She would particularly welcome topics informed by the medical/health humanities and disability studies.
Stella is on the editorial board of the ‘Contemporary Cultural Studies in Illness, Health and Medicine’ series (Edinburgh University Press), and acts as peer reviewer for the Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies. She has peer-reviewed for various publishers and journals, including the University of Massachusetts Press, the University of Toronto Press, Palgrave, Literature and Medicine, Medical Humanities, Contemporary Women’s Writing, Studies in the Novel, MELUS, Journal of American Studies, Symbiosis, and The Year’s Work in English Studies.
Stella is member of The Collegium for African American Research, The Feminist Studies Association, the Association for Medical Humanities, the Materialities of Care Research Network, the International Health Humanities Network, the Northern Network for Medical Humanities, and SAVAnT, the CHASE doctoral school in American art and visual culture. Sitting on the advisory board of the Kent Medical Humanities Network, she works closely with Leads in Medical Humanities within local Kent NHS Trusts.
Stella has co-organised and participated in numerous academic symposia and public engagement events, including: “Audre Lorde’s Legacy: A Film and Cultural Festival” (2012); “Artists’ Books and the Medical Humanities” (2016); “The Art of Dying Well” roundtable, hosted by Pilgrims Hospices for Kent’s International Arts Festival (2017); “Tell me What Hurts: Storytelling and the Healing Arts” (2018), and the British Academy’s Summer Showcase (2019). Since 2018 she has been convening the Medical Humanities Reading Group in the Division of Arts and Humanities at Kent.
Stella’s administrative experience at Kent has included the roles of Internationalisation Director in the School of English, Deputy Director of PhD studies in the Centre for American Studies, and Chair of the Research Ethics Advisory Group in the Faculty of Humanities. She has also served as Academic mentor for the Eastern Arc Mentoring scheme.