On Interdisciplinarity; or, a Response

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 Discipline, to Think Like Scientists.”[1]…

A Few Thoughts on EVE: Danger, Desire, and Reproductive Control

Livia Arndal Woods // The possibility of divorcing reproduction from the maternal body fascinates and haunts the human imagination. The dangers of and desire for such separation – for ectogenesis – has been of particular interest in science fiction. Indeed, the oxforddictionaries.com definition of ectogenesis reads: “(chiefly in science fiction) the development of embryos in…

Feminine Pain: Review of “Literature and Medicine,” Part 2

Cynthia Harris // This is my second post inspired by the articles in the recent issue of the literary journal “Literature and Medicine.” In her article “Authenticity and Fashionable Disease in Eighteenth-Century Britain,” Jessica Monaghan quotes Lady Dainty, a character in Colley Cibber’s The Double Gallant or, the Sick Lady’s Cure: “tis betraying our [female]…

The Politics of Outing and AIDS Activism in the 1980s

  John A. Carranza // “Archibald Anson Gidde, a prominent San Francisco realtor and social leader, died Tuesday at his home in Sea Cliff after a bout with liver cancer. He was 42./Mr. Gidde was a witty and flamboyant figure who distinguished himself by spearheading some of the City’s most notable real estate transactions…/A member…

A social and scientific history of hormones

Kathryn Cai // In her forthcoming book Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything (June 2018), Randi Hutter Epstein faces a daunting challenge in charting the history of hormonal science from the late nineteenth to the twenty-first century United States. Beginning with the freak shows of the 1890s, which Epstein…

Natural Causes, Part I: Risk, Ritual, and the Critique of Wellness

Josh Franklin // In Natural Causes, Barbara Ehrenreich offers a wide-ranging critique of the culture of wellness. From preventative care and exercise to positive thinking and mindfulness, Ehrenreich sees these modern health practices as futile attempts to experience some sense of control over the inevitability of death. But worse, she argues, they are based on…

Postpartum Exhaustion in William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Now

In William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale (ca. 1609-11), Hermione is dragged to court by her husband, King Leontes, a few days postpartum to defend herself against accusations of infidelity. Imprisoned on these charges during the late stages of pregnancy, Hermione gives birth to her daughter, Paulina, in a jail cell. Once in court, Hermione pleads against Leontes’s “immodest hatred” with eloquence and rhetorical skill reminiscent of Shakespeare’s earlier courtroom heroines (3.2.100).

AIDS and the (Social) Experience of Disability

Benjamin Gagnon Chainey // Hervé Guibert was a prolific French writer who died from AIDS in 1991. Jean-Dominique Bauby, editor of the magazine Elle, suffered a massive stroke that left him locked in his body.  With the help of his speech therapist, Guibert wrote The Diving Bell and the Butterfly entirely by blinking one eye….

The Medical Woman in Victorian Fiction and Her Service to the Empire

Jessica Kirwan // At the end of the nineteenth century, the medical woman was simultaneously progressive and traditional. As one of the first women professionals she helped elevate the importance of women to healthcare, and her distinctly feminine qualities helped her save lives. Perhaps most importantly, however, she helped promote the British Empire.

“For your own good”: Health as moral value and political weapon

Andrew Godfrey // The focus of World Health Day 2018, which took place last Saturday, was on ensuring universal health coverage. Whilst the UK is often lauded as being superior to our American counterparts for having a universal healthcare system, closer scrutiny reveals that this is not always the case. More than this, it is…

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”:…

Review of “Literature and Medicine,” Part 1

Cynthia Harris // This month, I will discuss the fascinating and excellently done recent issue of the journal “Literature and Medicine.” This issue’s articles all address the nature of “fashionable diseases,” that is, diseases with a “novel, modish prominence,” that rose and fell in popularity over the decades during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (239,…