Introducing Synapsis

Dear Readers, Thank you! Editing, producing, designing (and reading!) this journal has been exceptionally gratifying. We are thankful for the bright and bold writers who each week step out of the confines of their traditional disciplines. We are thankful for being introduced to new ideas, artistic works and academic texts. And we are thankful for…

Byron’s Pharmacopoeia

Lesley Thulin // In his 17-canto opus Don Juan (1819-24), Lord Byron adapts the epic form to modernity. The Horatian epigraph, “Difficile est proprie communia dicere,” announces that he will speak of common things, presaging the poem’s engagement with the ordinary. Byron takes up family conflict, courtship, and ritualized reading, for instance, and rejects the…

What we talk about when we talk about conversion disorder

Sneha Mantri // This three-part essay is an examination of “nervous illness” as a reaction to the rising tide of rationalist scientific development in Western society, focusing on three distinct periods of technological change. In part 1, I examined the Enlightenment’s increasingly mechanistic view of body and illness; in part 2, I turned to the…

Mothers, Labor, and Conduct: Then and Now

Alicia Andrzejewski // I am a mother. I am angry and exhausted. Thinking through anger and exhaustion are crucial to medical humanities as a full and robust field. According to early modern conduct books, Robert Cleaver (1598), in particular, I must “stand in a reverent awe” of my husband, even if I have cause for anger:…

Mothers, Memoir, and Medicine

Livia Arndal Woods // It’s Mother’s Day, holiday of breakfast-in-bed and/or reflection on the ways our society fails families. This Mother’s Day, I want to add a thought about how memoirs of motherhood cultivate an insistent thread of anxiety about medicine.

Testing for Normalcy: Amniocentesis and Disability in the 1970s

John A. Carranza // “2. Pregnancy is usually a happy time. Most newborn infants are normal and healthy. Even so, parents often wonder if their unborn child will be normal.”[1] By the late 1970s, reproductive decisions and the sense of normality were challenged and redefined by the women’s liberation and disability rights movement, among others….

Bodies in Stone II

Calloway Scott // In Part I, I made a case for the way ancient Graeco-Roman healing temples created a sense of community for sick suppliants through the careful collection and display of “patient narratives” within sanctuary space. Here I want to take a look at another facet of this community building, the dedication of anatomical…

Publishing Opportunity: Geriatric Medical Humanities

Desmond (Des) O’Neill // Geriatric Medical Humanities – new section in European Geriatric Medicine journal Despite broader currents of ageism within and without medicine, geriatricians, geropsychiatrists, gerontological nurses and allied health professionals are fortunate to be working with people at the richest stage of life, and in a speciality that is intellectually stimulating and professionally…

Rethinking the “Living Brain”

Diana Rose Newby // Thirty-two disembodied brains are injected with a blood substitute. Hours after its host body’s death, each brain begins showing signs of life. If this sounds like the stuff of science fiction, it’s not without good reason. Last month’s news that a Yale University research team had revived cellular function in the…

The Empathy Chamber

Bennett Kuhn // Around us were dusty stacks of forgotten hardcover books and crowd members circulating in the now-defunct Beaumont Warehouse venue in West Philly. The three-night immersive multimedia art project called Going There was in full swing, and a short queue led up to the table where I sat with two synthesizers welcoming strangers…