Upcoming Lecture Looks at the Influence Virus Novels May Have on Present Societal Debate

The upcoming David F. Kelley Bioethics Lecture at Duquesne University will look at viral threats through the unusual perspective of virus novels.

Dr. Hub Zwart, professor of philosophy at Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands, will present Virus Novels and the Anthropocene: A Philosophical Diagnosis of the Present on Tuesday, April 10, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. in Room 613 of the Duquesne Union.

"Emerging viral threats stand out as an important focus of attention and as a distinctive feature of the current era," Zwart said, pointing out the recent emergence of global viral threats such as SARS, H1N1 and the henipaviruses. "The resurgence of viral threats is closely related to demographic, technological and cultural developments."

Zwart likens viruses to "actors on the global stage" that "co-determine our future" as part of the new Anthropocene era, which is defined as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.

During his presentation, Zwart will discuss virus novels including Dan Brown's Inferno; Bram Stoker's Dracula; Sakyo Komatsu's Virus; and Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio. "I will analyze these virus novels to indicate how they may inform and inspire contemporary philosophical, bioethical and societal debate," he said.

At Radboud University, Zwart is founding director of the Centre for Society and Genomics and established and directs the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society. He is also a co-editor in chief of the open access journal Life Sciences, Society and Policy.

The David F. Kelly Bioethics Lectures draw nationally and internationally prominent scholars to speak at Duquesne University each fall and spring semester on current and emerging topics in bioethics. The purpose of the series is to provide ethics leadership on the crucial issues in health care today.

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