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.
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.