Health and Medical Humanities

Courses in Health and Medical Humanities in the English Department

ENGLIT 0541: Literature and Medicine
This course explores the relation between literature and medicine, and posits the centrality of acts of reading and writing, of interpretations of signs and symbols, to the practice of both literary criticism/production and medicine as it is commonly understood. Ever since Aristotle’s association of tragedy with catharsis, a term borrowed from medicine, literature and medicine have been more or less implicitly intertwined in the western traditions. This course examines the ways in which the art and science of healing illness, and enduring ills which cannot be cured, can be seen as part of the endeavor to attain to a fuller, more enlightened humanity. The literature of medicine--medical literature such as Hippocratic Writings and Galen--will serve as starting point for the duality of medicine as literature and literature as medicine. Through reading a wide range of works, from the very beginning of recorded literature, but also emphasizing contemporary writing on relevant themes, this course will provide students with textual and contextual analytical tools and strategies. The field of Narrative Medicine is a recognition of the centrality of critical and narrative interpretation to fields beyond the “literary.”

ENGLIT 0612: Literature and Science
This course aims to restore and improve the dialogue between scientific and critical-humanistic ways of understanding the world. It examines the share both ways of knowing have had in shaping our culture and our ideas by studying (and developing critical perspectives on) both scientific and literary texts. Its goal is to produce an understanding of the common history of literature and science. The course usually focuses on a theme, issue, or topic that has historical range and contemporary relevance. Different versions of the course might focus on social, literary, and scientific understandings of gender; the social, literary, and scientific attitudes toward death and the dead; or the social, literary, and scientific definitions and theories about the ""human."" Though works of science fiction may be studied, this is not a course inscience fiction. This course should be of particular interest to students in the sciences, students of literature, students of philosophy, and students of history.

ENGLIT 0648: Narrative and Graphic Perspectives in Health Humanities
This course emphasizes the narrating and understanding of difference as central to the education of those engaged in/with the healthcare field. Students will examine how narratives of neuro-diversity; gender barriers; racial inequities in education and health services, are all crucial issues for providers and receivers of medical care. By studying literature about medicine/the health professions from diverse perspectives, students in the course will learn to "observe, parse, appreciate, critique, and creatively reimagine points of contact between individuals in healthcare sphere." Through a series of readings including Paul Kalanithi's When Breath Becomes Air; and a mixed-media biography such as Lauren Redniss's Radioactive; Damon Tweedy's Black Man in a White Coat; Danielle Ofri's What Patient Say, What Doctors Hear; and the Graphic Medicine Manifesto, this course will introduce students to an exciting new field that erases the boundaries between authoritative "medical discourse" and what is commonly assumed to be a non-seriousgenre, graphic novel/comics; between physicians and patients' modes of accessing information and exchanging knowledge; between academic "essays" and Critical Creative Work that engages rigorously with knowledge and experience. Through this series of readings, students will consider issues such as: What kind of health practitioner do you wish to be? What models exist for asking important questions about the nature of human empathy though knowledge of Other's stories? and how is awareness of identity and difference nurtured in the education of the healthcare providers? How can you begin to articulate or represent your own in rigorous but creative ways?

ENGLIT 0670: Queer and Transgender Literature
"Queer and Transgender Literature" will examine the changing relationship between queer and transgender identities in literature, science and culture from the early twentieth century to the present. Students will learn to read literature in its historical context, pairing it with primary sources from relevant scientific and medical discourses, as well as locating it in competing literary criticism traditions in queer theory and transgender studies. The weekly course meetings will revolve around discussion of key works in queer and transgender literature, paired alternately with important literary criticism and primary sources. Classroom discussion and in-class writing assignments will focus on building these historicist and critical skills in sequence, so as to prepare students for their main assignment sequence, which asks them to apply the skills they are learning to generate their own contributions to debates in criticism about the proper boundaries between queer and transgender identities.

ENGLIT 1015: Unruly Bodies
This course studies the body as a phenomenon of cultural construction, as a product and process of lived experience, as the object of societal techniques of control, and as the subject of radical liberation. This course will examine the body in literature and other forms of representation. It will examine the ways that demands of “unruly bodies” to conform to normative body images intersect with gender, sex, sexuality, age, race, and other identity categories.

ENGLIT 1180: Humans, Animals, Machines in Victorian Literature
The Victorian Era in Britain saw radical changes in thought regarding what it means to be human. Darwin’s theory of evolution raised questions about the distinction between humans and animals at the same time that his rhetoric created stricter distinctionsamongst human beings. Shifts in understanding human development brought new attention to the nature of children. Increased industrialization sparked debates about the relationships between human beings and machines. New technologies changed how people thought about experience and reality. The new capitalist relations amongst human beings also reignited struggles to define and attain universal equality. Looking at literary, philosophical, scientific, and other types of texts we will discover the ways in which the overlapping concepts of “human,” “animal,” and “machine” were redefined, tested, and debated, and we will investigate major areas of British Victorian history and culture. Students will have deep and extensive knowledge of the energies that animated Victorian culture and gain critical perspectives on the ideas and debates that have been so influential on our own contemporary world. This course is designed for literature majors and for students interested in the history of science.