Cultural Medicine: Representations of Illness, Disability, and Health Care in Narrative and Visual Arts

Cultural Medicine: Representations of Illness, Disability, and Health Care in Narrative and Visual Arts

Syracuse University Abroad in Florence | A 3-week intensive course (3 credits) | June 3-June 19, 2014


Rebecca Garden, PhD, Upstate Medical University,

Kirsten Stromberg, MFA, Syracuse University in Florence,

Course Description: This course examines the balance of power in medicine and the status of the sick and disabled person in society by examining representations of medicine and people who are disabled or chronically ill. By analyzing narratives and visual art, as well as theories that illuminate the workings of representation and narrative, we will work toward a productive dialogue between medicine and people who seek health care. In addition to reading first-person and fictional narratives, critical and theoretical approaches, and viewing visual art, and video, students will explore representations of medicine, illness, and disability in the community and culture of Florence.

Students will explore the relations between theory and practice by moving from the classroom and the mediated realm of books, reproductions of artwork, and video outward into the streets, clinics, museums, and galleries of Florence. Students will give presentations on their research and will post to a course blog to contribute to an online dialogue about the course texts and classroom discussions. They will write a narrative analysis of some form of classroom or community research—choosing from an analysis of: historical or contemporary narratives, video or visual art, especially artworks in the city; an interview with a community member who is disabled or ill; an experience volunteering or shadowing physicians in a clinical setting. This analysis will include extending the theoretical consideration to reflect on the student’s own current or projected professional identity and to suggest changes to medical and public health practices that might build dialogue and level the power differential between medicine and patients.

Students meet twice a week, in the classroom and studio and for field trips.

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