Pondering Prepositions: Medical Humanities and Narrative Medicine

Rooted in the essence of humanity, health and medicine are inherently interdisciplinary. How are these fields intertwined with others? We express this entanglement through prepositions, mumbled words that can resound with significance.

Take, for example, literature. We can consider literature in/and/of medicine. There is a prepositional choice that we can make, one that urges us to consider the angle of our approach. We can do the same with other media forms like art.

In: Medical literature is present in medical education lectures, in research publications, in patient charts. Medicine has established an entirely different language with its own terminology, one that can manifest itself as a form of literature through scientific writing. The clinical practice of medicine is a dialogic exchange, a narrative. My understanding is that this area of study is largely encompassed by the field of Narrative Medicine, one that notes the literary merit of the medical practice.

Of: Literature has long been fascinated in the practice of medicine, its accomplishments and its qualms. There have been  writings about medicine for centuries. Some are the stories of  medical practitioners like William Carlos Williams, Oliver Sacks, Danielle Ofri. And others are written about the medical sphere from afar, such as the works of Ken Kesey, Elizabeth Moon, Sinclair Lewis. These literary texts seem to be the focus of Medical Humanities, which explores medicine through a literary lens.

And: I claim that this blog explores the intersection of literature and medicine: the ‘and.’ This intersection, however, is certainly a grey area. The ‘and’ balances the two fields, literature and medicine, declaring them as separate studies equal in merit. This introduces the idea that perhaps, because these are distinct, each has something to learn from the other. Maybe scholars can develop reading, writing, and critical thinking skills by confronting the medical profession through literature. Or analyzing literature can instill in health care professionals a different kind of care and compassion. The former feels more like Medical Humanities, the latter Narrative Medicine.

Prepositions

I believe that this is the realm shared by both Medical Humanities and Narrative Medicine. I’ve found that this grey area can be largely open to interpretation, but only through dissecting the fundamental threads within can we make sense of these fields and assemble these perspectives together.

2 Comments

Filed under Narrative Medicine Research

2 responses to “Pondering Prepositions: Medical Humanities and Narrative Medicine

  1. Intriguing! If I may throw in yet another perspective, my area of focus as an English Ph.D. is rhetoric. It can help you see things with new insights when you analyze the words and metaphors, etc., used to talk about a subject. Also, you can consider who is speaking, from what position of power and authority, within what social or political or historic contexts, etc. I don’t know if this is helpful or interesting to you as far as your work goes, but I can give you some authors and titles if you would like to think more about that angle of analysis.

    • That would be great, Katherine! I feel like I’m just barely scraping the surface, and there’s definitely more to consider from a rhetorical standpoint. I’d love to hear any reading suggestions you have.

Thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s