“Whenever a doctor cannot do good, he must be kept from doing harm.”
This course will examine the role and image of the doctor, illness, and healing in literature. Students will read works by and about doctors, but will also look at poetry, fiction, drama, nonfiction, television, and film in an effort to reveal what it means to be ill. The course will examine how the world responds, or fails to respond, to disease, plagues, and outbreaks, and what our stories tell us about these dynamics. The very notion of the “patient,” will be explored. Authors may include Susan Sontag, Abraham Verghese, Tony Kushner, Margaret Edson, Albert Camus, Shakespeare, Nawal el Sadaawi, Sylvia Plath, Daniel Defoe, Franz Kafka, Richard Seltzer, Jane Kenyon, William Carlos Williams, Emily Dickinson, Atul Gawande, Eve Ensler, and Siddartha Mukherjee. Students can expect to conduct interviews, do research, compose their own original works, and to write analytically about each work. They will also investigate a related topic of their interest for presentation to the class.