Fall 2019

As a set of disciplines, the humanities face the challenge of how to write about embodied experiences that resist easy verbal categorization such as illness, pain, and healing. The recent emergence of interdisciplinary frameworks such as narrative medicine has offered a set of methodological approaches to address these challenges. Conceptualizing a field of medical and health humanities offers a broad umbrella under which to study the influence of medico-scientific ideas and practices on society.  Whether by incorporating material culture such as medical artefacts, performing symptomatic readings of poems and novels, or excavating the implicit medical assumptions underlying auditory cultures, the approaches that emerge from a historiographical or interpretive framework are different from those coming from the physician’s black bag. The Explorations in the Medical Humanities Series explores the enigma of how what we write relates back to the experience of bodies in different stages of health and disease. Our speakers consider how the medical and health humanities build on and revise earlier notions of the “medical arts.”  At stake are the problems of representation and the interpretation of cultural products from the past and present through medical models, and the challenge of establishing a set of humanistic competencies (observation, attention, judgment, narrative, historical perspective, ethics, creativity) that can inform medical practice.

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