Spring 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 humanities provides 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. This two-day workshop will continue the work of the Explorations in the Medical Humanities lecture series from 2017-2018, with a new emphasis on creating an interdisciplinary conversation between scholars from a variety of institutions. 

This event is the first in the Explorations in the Medical Humanities series to feature an original creative piece, Krista Knight’s new play Lipstick Lobotomy (2018). Knight is currently the Writer-in-Residence in Cinema & Media Arts and Theatre at Vanderbilt University, and the play has never been fully staged. Drawing on Columbia’s institutional history, we will host a dramatic reading of the play in Buell Hall, the only remaining building from the psychiatric institution formerly located on the University site. This one-off production will feature a dramatic reading of Knight’s play by local actors, commentary from the playwright and director, and a brief history of Columbia’s architectural/institutional history as a psychiatric facility. The reading is intended to present the gendered and political history of lobotomy as a widely-performed psychiatric procedure in the mid-20th century, and, more generally, to explore the ways in which dramatic performance can engender new ways of thinking about medical testimony.

View the full history of lectures for Explorations in the Medical Humanities.

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