Honors | Medicine, Magic and Mortality
H203 | 0009 | Rollins
Above section meets with Honors H227.
Honors 203 fulfills COAS topics requirement.
If you were suddenly afflicted with a catastrophic illness, would you
feel compelled to write about it? If so, you are a part of a growing
number of Americans who, once confronted by visions of their own
mortality, feel a need to memorialize their experiences in print.
This course, with the help of ten visitors -- two practicing surgeons,
a local shaman, a cancer patient, an AIDS patient, an organ donor, an
organ recipient, an intensive care nurse, a NY film maker, and a
distinguished scholar of Thomas Mann -- will survey the different ways
people have chosen to write about their experiences with illness and
mortality or illness and recovery.
The class will have several venues on campus, as well as some off
campus. Last semester, while studying American attitudes toward death,
we took a field trip to Shaman Babalawo's "Meditation Gardens" to
explore rituals traditionally used to reconnect people to the spirits
of their ancestors, and, later, while studying organ transplant
issues, we visited the IU medical Center to witness an organ
The course is multidisciplinary, multicultural and multimedia. In
addition to five cinematic presentations, we will be reading six
books, ranging from Thomas Mann and Simone de Beauvoir to Lucy Grealy
and Bill T. Jones. The class will produce an all-inclusive course
video which will attempt to document all aspects of instruction,
discussion, research and student performances. Portions of all the
classes will be taped. The final master will be copied and given to
each member of the class at the end of the semester.
While the class will write Living Wills and two short critical essays,
the major project in the class will be to "adopt" an illness, research
it, and then write a chapter of a fictive pathography. There are no
The instructor, who is himself a kidney transplant, is a Professor of
English at Indiana State University, an adjunct professor of
Comparative Literature, at IU, and a writer and lecturer on organ