University Writing: Readings in Medical Humanities

Course Description

In University Writing: Readings in Medical Humanities, you will be invited to join a rich, interdisciplinary conversation around medicine. Reading in the fields of biomedical ethics, medical anthropology, journalism and literary criticism, we will challenge our basic assumptions about medicine, sickness and health. In your section, you may read works by famous doctors like Atul Gawande and patients like Susan Sontag, who have complicated these roles. Reading Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, you may ask, what makes biomedical research ethical? Who owns human tissue? You may research an essay that helps illuminate the heated political debate that surrounds healthcare in the United States. Each class will enjoy a special event and rich partnership with Columbia’s ICLS/ Program in Medicine, Literature, & Society.

To take this class, you need not be pre-med or plan to work in a medical field. That’s because even as we explore medicine from many disciplinary angles, the main purpose of this class is to help you develop as an academic reader and writer. In the process of writing academic essays, we will practice the same kind of critical analysis, revision, collaboration, and research skills that scholars in all fields at Columbia University use in their work every day. Over the course of the semester, you will read and discuss essays, complete regular informal reading and writing exercises, write several longer essays, and prepare an opinion essay for a public audience. The main goal for this course is for you to emerge as a more confident reader and writer, capable of writing clear, persuasive prose—skills that will serve you no matter what field you choose. Sections run in the .600s.