Prof Nicola Gardini teaches Italian at Oxford University and is a researcher of renaissance texts, a translator, author and poet. He gave an erudite and thoughtful paper on "illness" in literature, his interest in this started when he translated Virginia Woolf's essay "on Being Ill " and developed further when exploring the writings of AIDS Sufferers. In his opinion whether we are living or dying is a linguistic construct. He pointed out that as doctors we are engaged in narratives as we diagnose and that in this we are similar to an author developing the plot of a novel.
He describes AIDS literature as initially being all about dying and loss, but now about infection and disease. He used the seminal work by Edward White "A Farewell Symphony" 1997 as an example. In his opinion literature can be an antidote to bias and stigma. It gives a voice and expression to gay men and AIDS sufferers. He made an interesting observation that literature is kind to TB compared AIDS with its attendant decline in body and lack of "spiritual lifting up."
His recent novel: "La vita non vissuta" (The Unlived Life) describes the story of a man leaving his wife for a male lover, only to be infected by him with HIV. It describes his coming to terms with his infection and "being ill" he ended his lecture with the point that it is possible to be "I'll" but still healthy in mind and body.