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…

Disorientations: On Disability in Graduate School

Sara Ahmed, in Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others (2006), asks what it means to be orientated. By thinking through sexuality in terms of lived, embodied experience, Ahmed challenges us to think about how queer bodies occupy space and time. She writes that “if orientation is a matter of how we reside in space, then sexual…

The Anti-Disability of Anti-Vaccination

During my final year of undergraduate studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, I was studying at a café and had with me Seth Mnookin’s controversial new book, The Panic Virus.[1]  While I was reading, I was approached by a woman who happened to be waiting for her order by my table. Intrigued by…

Revaluing Illness: Virginia Woolf’s “On Being Ill”

Travis Chi Wing Lau Recently republished by Paris Press, Virginia Woolf’s meditation from the sickbed first appeared in T.S. Eliot’s The Criterion in January 1926. In this short reflection, I want to consider how Woolf offers us an early model for a patient-centered narrative medicine that challenges reductive assumptions about sickness as a state of…