Syphilis, Silence, and Suffering: Re-introducing Syphilis to “La Doulou”

Lillian Rountree // Finding a modern literary depiction of syphilis is nearly impossible. The disease has been academically and culturally dismissed — from Susan Sontag’s claim in Illness as Metaphor that the disease is “not mysterious” and thus limited in its metaphorical and literary power, to Matthew Macfadyen’s character on HBO’s Succession noting that “You…

Essay Series: “Illness and Francophone Literature and History”

Madeleine Dobie & Thomas Dodman // This collection of essays in Synapsis grew out of a course on pandemics in francophone history and culture that we offered in Columbia’s Department of French and Institute for Comparative Literature and Society in fall 2021. The unprecedented experience (at least in our community) of teaching in the midst…

The Road Not Taken: Thinking Beyond Vaccines

Tianyuan Huang// Truth be told, I did not see this coming. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I thought I would have been conducting dissertation research in Tokyo for nearly half a year by now; but I am still in New York City awaiting the lifting of travel bans, having already rescheduled flight tickets for the third…

Seasonal Time, Variant Time: Pandemic Futurity

Julia Dauer // Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, scientists have speculated about whether cases will ebb and flow in seasonal patterns.  Just this week, NPR released a podcast episode about the anticipated intersections of flu and COVID-19 in the U.S. this winter.  The episode encapsulates the collision between two conflicting ways of conceptualizing illness: seasonal time…

The Great Read: Mourning Becomes Elect[ronic]

Lynn Lawrence // The face is a picture of the mind with the eyes as its interpreter.    — Marcus Tullius Cicero, “Orator”[1] Photographers deal in things which are continuously vanishing.     —Henri Cartier-Bresson, “The Mind’s Eye” Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.  — Arthur C. Clarke, “Profiles of the Future” The first…

Funding Wellness: How Grantmakers Impact Community Health

Brynn Fitzsimmons and Rebekah Swank // The narratives we use to secure funding for community-facing work, whether that work is explicitly health-focused or not, can and do impact the health of that work and, more importantly, the people doing it.