This spring, before coronavirus arrived at my suburban Philadelphia university, I was teaching my favorite course: “Life, Death, and Disease.” In it, undergraduate students analyze writing about medicine, disease, and mortality. It is that rare literature course that enrolls more pre-meds than English majors. Each student is an expert on a different aspect of the topic: pre-meds share knowledge of epidemiology; psychology students of human behavior; English majors of textual analysis; and arts students of the visual arts, music, and theater.
wellness culture; and fictional critiques of medicine such as The Yellow Wallpaper and Gattaca.
Here are some of the questions I asked my students about these texts:
What makes an “illness” an “illness?”
Who determines what constitutes “health” or “wellness?”
Kristin E. Kondrlik is an Assistant Professor at West Chester University of Pennsylvania and is co-director of its Business and Technical Writing minor. Her scholarship on medicine, writing, and disease has appeared in Victorian Periodicals Review, English Literature in Transition: 1880-1920, and Poroi: Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry.