Illness as Muse and the Poet-Physician: Rafael Campo’s Comfort Measures Only

Travis Chi Wing Lau // Rafael Campo. Comfort Measures Only: New & Selected Poems, 1994-2016. Durham: Duke University Press, 2018. “Illness is a problem for the human imagination only insomuch as we might seek dispassionately scientific methods to cure it while we avoid the inevitably destructive pressures it exerts on our fragile psyches.” – Rafael…

How to Survive an Epidemic?

Travis Lau // Part of the way I cope with the demands of academic life is through gaming (and maybe eating my feelings from time to time). Gaming, for me, remains a rare pleasure (yet) untouched by my trained habits of critical interpretation. Whenever I make any attempts to pleasure-read, for instance, I still instinctively…

Prophylactic Fictions; or, The Purpose of Caravans

  Travis Lau // To mangle Clausewitz yet again, was prophylaxis a continuation of politics with other means or were politics shaped by the imperatives of prevention? Peter Baldwin[1] In the lead-up toward the recent midterm elections, my inbox was bombarded by links from colleagues to a recent Fox News segment in which a former…

Object Lessons

Travis Lau // While I was in graduate school, the issue of method was at the center of many discussions from reading practices to interdisciplinarity. In fact, a major conference organized by our Gender and Sexuality (“Gen/Sex”) Working Group was on the topic of method. Collectively we asked a number of difficult yet fundamental meta-questions…

The Theater of Medicine: Inchbald’s Animal Magnetism

Travis Lau // After graduating in May, I had the unexpected opportunity to contribute to an ongoing digital humanities initiative at the University of Pennsylvania. Headed by my former dissertation advisor, Michael Gamer, and Digital Humanities Specialist, Scott Enderle, the Penn Playbills Project makes use of the understudied archive of over 6,000 playbills housed in…

On Interdisciplinarity; or, a Response

Travis Chi Wing Lau // Following my review of Sari Altschuler’s The Medical Imagination, I wanted to continue thinking through larger questions about our interdisciplinary field and what it does. My post today responds to a recent article by Peter Salovey published in Scientific American’s June 2018 issue: “We Should Teach All Students, in Every…

Cultivating “Epistemological Humility”: How to Reimagine the Medical Humanities

Sari Altschuler. The Medical Imagination: Literature and Health in the Early United States. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018. Travis Chi Wing Lau // In The Age of Analogy: Science and Literature Between the Darwins (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016), Devin Griffiths defined the field of science and literature in terms of its “central object”:…

Taking Stock: Disability Studies and the Medical Humanities

While on the academic job market over the past few months, I had many opportunities to define myself as a scholar. You get particularly good not only at elevator pitches—short, pithy descriptions of your intellectual interests and dissertation project—but also at sketching out your intellectual formation. My research and teaching interests have primarily been in…

Frankenstein at 200: A Reflection

Frankenstein at 200 Two hundred years ago, Mary Shelley published Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus, and I wanted to take the time to celebrate this occasion by thinking about my long relationship with this infinitely teachable novel. Alongside teaching this novel in a number of my courses in literature and science and the history of…

Revisiting HIV/AIDS Writing in the Age of Trump

“It will be recorded that the dead in the first decade of the calamity died of our indifference.” —Paul Monette At the end of the past year, the Trump administration dismissed all sixteen members of the federal HIV/AIDS advisory council, a panel that has existed since the Reagan years. This was coupled with deep cuts…