Field Notes from the Classroom: Interdisciplinary Teaching and Communities of Curiosity

Travis Chi Wing Lau // This morning, I had the joy of attending a workshop with the growing Science and Nature Writing initiative at Kenyon College. During this interdisciplinary conversation, we discussed different approaches to pedagogy at multiple levels of undergraduate teaching: integrating a writing component into an intermediate science course, creative writing that interwove…

On Virality, Corona or Otherwise.

Travis Chi Wing Lau // About two weeks ago, I tweeted out about a troubling experience that happened while I was riding my apartment elevator after a long day of writing and teaching. Little did I know that it would circulate so widely, that it would go viral. In the ensuing days, replies to the…

Against Medical Humanities?

Travis Chi Wing Lau // As I have wrestled with in both my review of Sari Altschuler’s The Medical Imagination and in my essays about interdisciplinarity and disciplinary difference, I remain deeply interested in the question of methodology and how we define our fields of study. Like the concept of genre, a field sets expectations:…

On the Power of Names

Travis Chi Wing Lau // Very recently, I had a discussion with the brilliant Jillian Weise about naming—in this case, how we name the condition of spinal curvature. In truth, I only recently learned the full name of my specific diagnosis: kyphoscoliosis. This is a compound term in medicine (kyphosis + scoliosis) used to denote…

Ars Moriendi

Travis Chi Wing Lau // “We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being. And well-being is about the reasons one wishes to be alive.” – Atul Gawande Last week, I flew…

Teaching Victorian Disability Studies

“What it must mean, if we are to be present in this age of challenges, is a profound rethinking of our pedagogical priorities, disciplinary boundaries, and subject positions. Let us actually be Victorianists.” –Christie Harner, “Victorian hybridities”[i] Travis Chi Wing Lau // As I begin to construct my syllabus for my introductory seminar on medical…

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 Chi Wing 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…

Prophylactic Fictions; or, The Purpose of Caravans

Travis Chi Wing 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…

Object Lessons

Travis Chi Wing 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…