Designed for, but not limited to, students interested in the medical profession, this course introduces the study of medicine through reading imaginative literature--novels, plays, essays, poems--by and about doctors and patients, focusing on understanding ethical issues and on developing critical and interpretive skills.
ENGL 272: Literature and Medicine “Epidemic Narratives”
Wednesdays/Fridays (WF) 2-3:15
Instructor: Els Woulstra
English Department Areas of Specialization:
Science, Medicine & the Environment
Culture & Social Change
The 2018 measles outbreak raises concerns with the return of previously eradicated infectious diseases and incites fear of a new global epidemic. Through literary narratives of epidemics, this course explores the ethical dilemmas, representational difficulties, and the cultural and emotional complexities that surround the practice of medicine. We will read novels, plays, essays, poems, films, and the occasional archival medical text on epidemics, ranging from the Black Death to the HIV/AIDS crisis, to possible future threats to global health posed by the anti-vaccination movement or a new influenza pandemic. In addition, this course will explore narratives of the so-called “silent epidemics” of mental illness, such as depression, anorexia, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Through our readings and analysis of epidemic narratives, we will explore crucial questions about the intersections of literature, medicine, and cultural definitions of “illness” and “health.” How does Western medicine define “illness” and “health,” and how do these concepts shift in relation to their changing cultural, political, and ethical understandings? How have doctors, patients, and authors represent illness, health, and healing? What happens when different cultural understandings of illness and healing come into conflict with one another? By engaging with these and related questions, students in this course will develop a critical understanding of the role of narrative in the construction of medical discourse and practice, and an interdisciplinary and contextual framework for analyzing the relationship between literature and medicine.
This course is approved for group 1 distribution (D1)