English | Literature and Public Life
L240 | 1878 | Woodcock

4:00p-5:15p TR (12) 3 cr.



This course is devoted to a consideration of cultural issues,
interpersonal situations, and problems of values or ethics that are
characteristic of modern medicine. Students from any discipline
who have an interest in medicine are encouraged to consider the

Being sick and healing the sick are experiences that can reach far
beyond technical and narrow professional matters to engage our
emotions, our metaphysics, and our moral and ethical sense. In this
course we will explore these non-scientific dimensions of medicine
by reading and discussing a selection of literary and
autobiographical works that emphasize the cultural and
experiential aspects of illness and medical practice. Most of our
authors are doctors or patients, and some are both.

Our discussions will move from the concrete situations presented
in the reading to consideration of the personal, social, and ethical
questions these experiences raise for patients and medical
professionals. Some likely areas of discussion: the personal and
social meanings of illness and cure, cultural images of the
physician, varieties of patient-physician relationships, and patients'
and physicians' rights and responsibilities. Students should finish
the course with a broad awareness of important non-technical
factors in medical situations, and with some clarity about the place
of these factors in effective health care.

The reading list, while not final, will contain most of these works:
Virginia Axline, DIBS: IN SEARCH OF SELF; Norman Cousins,
THE PEOPLE; Perri Klass, A not entirely benign procedure; Leo
Tolstoy, THE DEATH OF IVAN ILLYCH; Joyce Wadler, MY
BREAST; William Carlos Williams, THE DOCTOR STORIES;
and a writing handbook, Diana Hacker's A POCKET STYLE
MANUAL. We will read a number of shorter works, for which
there will be a duplication charge of three to five dollars, and we
will see one or two films with medical themes.

This course is a COAS intensive writing section, and writing will
be a major part of the semester's work. There will be four papers of
1000-1500 words, several shorter written exercises, and a
takehome final exam. For grading purposes, each paper will be
worth about 15%, the exam 20%, and exercises and class
contribution 20%.