Instructor: Reutter
TR 2:00 PM – 3:20 PM

In Illness as Metaphor, Susan Sontag writes that “Illness is not metaphor…Yet it is hardly possible to take up one’s residence in the kingdom of the ill unprejudiced by the lurid metaphors with which it has been landscaped.” Sontag’s endeavor in this volume and in her subsequent AIDS and Its Metaphors is to liberate those experiencing illness and non-normative ways of being in the world from the perils of the metaphorical imagination, including physical, social and cultural consequences to health and well-being. Advanced Topics in Literature and Health will address these perils of and pathways to liberation from the metaphorical imagination in regard to a specific topic or cluster of topics in health and wellness.

This Advanced Topics in Literature, Health, and Society course uses humanist methods of inquiry to examine literary examples of health and well-being and of the institutions, practices and spaces in which they are navigated—here in Cincinnati, elsewhere in the US, or abroad—and in history or the contemporary world. This course is appropriate for upper-division students in English and medical humanities and for practicing health professionals with at least an associate’s degree. All versions of the Advanced Topics in Literature course will include literature and theory, delving into the ways health and well-being issues are theorized in the popular or scholarly imagination. Approaches may include psychoanalytic theory, affective theory, gender studies, transnationalism, narrative theory, or others. Students in all versions of this course will produce an extensive final paper and may also be asked to complete a multimodal project or a portfolio.

Examples of course topics may include violence and the female body in medieval and renaissance literature; narratives of invisible pain; international internship; environmental health literature; the stories our medical archives tell us; illness metaphors and social and political implications historical and contemporary; reading global health; and reading the US through health narratives. This course is “advanced” by virtue not only of its focused topic but also the expectation that the student has basic competence in information literacy, knowledge integration, critical thinking, and effective written communication, and that insight into and applications of principles of social responsibility can be readily gained.