Authentic Empathy & Therapeutic Alliances (Part 1)

Chuka Nestor Emezue // “Laying the pus-covered pad on the desk in front of him, he gave up his secret. During his escape from the civil war in neighbouring Congo, he had been separated from his wife and taken by rebels. His captors raped him, three times a day, every day for three years. And…

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…

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.

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…

Recording Women’s Contributions to the History of Victorian Health and Wellness

Jessica Kirwan // I recently interviewed Dr. Lesa Scholl, Editor-in-Chief of the Encyclopedia of Victorian Women Writers, which is soon to be published by Palgrave Macmillan for their Major Reference Works portfolio. Dr. Scholl is Head of Kathleen Lumley College at the University of Adelaide in Australia. Readers of Synapsis will be interested to know…

The Classic, or Institutionalization part II

Roanne Kantor // What happens when different kinds of institutions meet? When I asked that question this winter, the answer focused on the unevenness between various types of things that get theorized very abstractly as “institutions.” Can there be any use in exploring “institutionalization” and “de-institutionalization” in both medical and educational contexts? Within this larger…

Aging Romanticism

Lesley Thulin // William Wordsworth’s pronouncement that the child is the “father of the Man” is perhaps the clearest articulation of British Romanticism’s revaluation of childhood (Wordsworth “My Heart Leaps Up” 7). For Wordsworth, childhood holds critical purchase over adulthood, priming the mind’s receptivity to nature as well as the creative faculty. Wordsworth’s autobiographical epic…

The Cult of the Invalid: Industrial Underpinnings

Sneha Mantri // In the first part of this three part essay, I examined the Enlightenment origins of “nervous illness” as a reaction to the development of rationalist scientific development. “Nerves” and neurasthenia challenged medicine’s increasingly mechanistic view of the body, and of illness as the breakdown of the body’s machinery. In this section, I…

Turning to the Structural in the Health Humanities

Gabi Schaffzin // I remember being at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in 2014 when Anne Wojcicki, co-founder and CEO of 23andMe gave one of the keynotes. The Yale-educated former investment banker was explaining how the healthcare related portfolio that she had managed in her past life actually profited from people getting sick; she…