People - 01.02.2023 - 08:00 

Appointment: Anna Elsner

Prof. Dr. Anna Elsner has been Associate Professor for Medical Humanities and French Studies at the University of St.Gallen since 1 February 2023.
Prof. Dr. Anna Elsner

Prof. Dr. Anna Elsner completed her bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and Modern Languages at the University of Oxford and the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris from 2001 to 2006. In 2006, she transferred to the University of Cambridge for her master’s degree in European Literature and Culture, where she also obtained her PhD in 2011. The title of her doctoral thesis was “Mourning and Creativity in ‘A la recherche du temps perdu’”. From 2010 to 2012, she was a Joanna Randall MacIver Junior Research Fellow at St. Hugh’s College, University of Oxford, and in 2012 she moved to King’s College London as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow. After stints at the Institute for Bioethics & Health Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch, the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, and the Hastings Center, she moved to the Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine at the University of Zurich in 2016, funded by an SNF Marie Heim-Vögtlin scholarship from 2017. Since 2020, Prof. Dr. Anna Elsner has been researching and teaching at the University of St.Gallen as a tenure-track assistant professor with a focus on French-speaking cultures and societies. In 2022 she was awarded the Marie Heim-Vögtlin Prize.

Prof. Dr. Anna Elsner’s research on French literature and cultural studies engages with the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as part of which she has published on authors such as Proust, Malraux, Guibert, de Beauvoir, Derrida, Ricoeur, Levinas, Forest, Ogien, and film-makers such as Lanzmann and Resnais.

Research focus in the field of Medical Humanities

Since 2014, her research focus has been within the field of the Medical Humanities, with a particular concentration on the representation of death and dying in literature, philosophy, photography, and film. For her project entitled “Palliative Pages: Inscribing Mortality into French Literature and Theory since 1950”, she was awarded an SNF Marie-Heim-Vögtlin scholarship. In this project she mainly focused on autobiographical texts on dying from the perspective of the history and philosophy of medicine. Prof. Dr. Anna Elsner then obtained an ERC Starting Grant for a follow-up project, which will compare contemporary Francophone, Germanophone, and Dutch-Flemish narratives of assisted dying and suicide tourism. This will also integrate ethical and legal aspects arising from tensions between autonomy and the common good. The funds raised will enable Anna Elsner to build an interdisciplinary team from the areas of law, literary studies, and philosophy, to examine and survey changing attitudes toward death and dying and their cultural, historical, legal, and philosophical implications.

Innovative teaching formats and engagement in public debates

Prof. Dr. Elsner’s enthusiasm for her subject motivates her teaching, which always tries to convey the importance of engaging with literature in order to understand societal challenges. Her interdisciplinary teaching formats allow the acquisition of boundary-crossing humanities skills and build bridges with local institutions, as well as enabling students to interact directly with renowned international researchers. As part of her research on socially relevant topics, she engages in public debates, for example by teaming up with colleagues from the Université de Lausanne and the University of Zurich to establish the Swiss Network of Ethics of Care. 

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