War, sacrifice, and swallows that tell of summer: the narratives and metaphors of the Covid-19 pandemic

A line from Vera Lynn's WW2 song, also quoted by Elizabeth II during the Covid-19 pandemic, in a pub window

Since joining the ECLAS ‘Science and Religion Narratives’ project at the University of York, I have been applying my background in communication and media science, history of science, and comparative literary studies to analyse the narratives of the Covid-19 pandemic. A preprint of my first research article on this project is now available. In it, I outline the prevalence, and the reasons and implications of the UK’s cultural preference for framing Covid-19 as warfare, but also explain its shortcomings in a science communication context. In a recent conference paper, I explore furthermore what the history of science, science communication, and religion of past epidemics can teach us about the use of narrative in a public health crisis through a comparison of Covid-19 with the Victorian cholera epidemic, which also shows us what narratives and metaphors might be preferable. If you’re pressed for time, I also wrote a shorter piece, which you can read here.

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