Literature and Medicine is a well-established interdisciplinary field of study that has been carried out both in medical school and liberal arts settings since the 1960s. More than just a combination of the literary and the medical, the field explores the complementarity and the conflicts between the disciplines. Like literature, medicine is concerned with stories that derive from the mythologies, values, assumptions, and ideologies of their tellers, and the kinds of analyses that scholars of literature apply to other texts can be productively applied to patients' and physicians' accounts of illness and healing. Unlike literature, however, medicine must always remain grounded in the often painful factuality of the body, and herein lies one of the primary tensions explored in the study of literature and medicine: illness as construct versus illness as concrete reality.
Through a combination of lecture and discussion, this course will examine the writings of patients and physicians to discover the narrative modes they use, the explicit and implicit functions their narratives serve, and the role of narrative in developing or maintaining their identities. Students will also be introduced to the large body of theoretical writing that has been produced in the area of literature and medicine.
This course will
be of interest to students majoring or honouring in English as a study
of the communicative and therapeutic functions of literature, the latter
an important aspect rarely addressed in English curricula. It will also
be of interest to students planning to pursue medicine, or any of the
helping professions, given its focus on the reading and understanding
of different authorial perspectives.
The English 3633 Literature and Medicine coursepack is available at the university Bookstore.
Literature and Medicine and The Journal of Medical Humanities, the main journals in the field, are available in electronic form through the library.
The main scholarly web site in the field, the Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database, is maintained at New York University. Get to know it well! http://endeavor.med.nyu.edu/lit-med/lit-med-db/index.html
Other relevant sites:
program in narrative medicine:
Hiram College Center
for Literature, Medicine, and the Health Care Professions
Resource Database At University College, London
History of Medicine Resources
Most weeks, you'll be asked to do a page or more of informal writing
about one of the texts we're studying. You'll be provided with your
assignment one week in advance. Occasionally, you'll be summarizing
a theoretical text; sometimes, you'll be applying that theory to a literary
text. You'll receive full credit simply for handing in an acceptable
assignment. We'll often use the assignments as the basis of discussion
on the day they are due.
Annotated Bibliography. Due approximately halfway through the course, your annotated bibliography will consist of summaries of ten essays found in Literature and Medicine or the Journal of Medical Humanities. Issues of both journals, from 1995 and 1997 respectively, are available online through the Harriet Irving Library. Detailed instructions will be provided in class.
At one time or another, we have all been ill, whether from a sports
injury, a chronic condition, or even the flu. Your task, as a demonstration
that you have understood the concepts presented throughout the course,
is to write an autobiographical illness narrative. Should that be impossible
because you have always been disgustingly healthy, then you may write
an autobiographical narrative from the perspective of a caregiver. Should
you never have had the experience of caregiving, either, then obtain
it between now and then: it's virtually guaranteed that some of your
family or friends will fall ill with colds and flu this semester. Narratives
will be kept confidential to protect your privacy. Detailed instructions
will be provided in class.
Assignments must be submitted on the day they are due. Late weekly work defeats the purpose, so will not be accepted unless you were absent on the day the discussion took place. A late annotated bibliography or illness narrative will be accepted only after prior consultation and the setting of a new due date; I reserve the right not to accept a late submission.
Attendance is required. A sign-up sheet will circulate daily, and it is your responsibility to sign it. Students who miss more than two classes will lose the 10% participation grade. Students who miss more than four classes will receive an F for the course. You are responsible for keeping track of your absences. Missing fewer than two classes does not guarantee that you will receive the full 10%: participation also involves playing an active role in group discussions and providing regular evidence that you have kept up with your reading and thinking.
are expected to arrive at class on time;