Often we think of issues of health and medicine in a scientific light without considering the great extent to which they are in fact humanitarian matters. Many students in applied mental or physical health care fields, for instance, nursing and social work, receive specific practical preparation for working with patients and clients. And yet, whether we or anyone we love is on the giving or receiving end of health care of any sort–from the laboratory to the doctor’s office, from the cradle to the grave–we are all affected by the humanitarian aspects of the medical arts. A study of literature and film involving medical and health care issues allows for exploration and critical thinking, and indeed “helps to develop and nurture skills of observation, analysis, empathy, and self-reflection.”
This course will be comprised of five units: The Tyranny of the Normal; Death and Dying; Cancer and AIDS Narratives; Issues of Race, Gender, and Class; and Ethics in Research and Patient Care. Other issues addressed are children’s rights, ageism, disabilities, spirituality, and aesthetics. Genres of study may include plays, essays, films, short stories, novels, poetry, creative nonfiction, and television mini-series. Writers of note include Susan Sontag, Audre Lorde, Sharon Olds, Jodi Picoult, Oliver Sacks, and others. The course will require critical reading and thinking demonstrated in two exams, an essay, a partner presentation, online discussion board engagements, quizzes, course participation, and a field trip reflection.