Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

The Literature of Care

ENGL 207.301
instructor(s):
T 1:30-4:30
fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major

“He comes to my table in his hungry wounds and his hunger,” the poet Robert Hayden once wrote.  How can the arts and humanities make us receptive to human vulnerability? How do they help us develop a capacity to respond to the suffering of others?  How does injury and trauma affect one’s relationship to language, memory and society? This course builds upon the recent “ethnographic turn” in the arts and humanities as well as discussions around narrative medicine and the medical humanities. Through a variety of literary works that foreground themes of compassion, resilience, empathy, and wellbeing, we will reflect on the power of listening and the way in which writing can function therapeutically for both the patient and caregiver.  We will engage the work of writers, scholars and practitioners such as William Faulkner, Judith Butler, Michael Stone-Richards, Atul Gawande, and others in mapping a contemporary ethic and politics of care. We will also interact through guest lectures and site visits with a range of individuals at Penn Medicine, Penn Social Policy & Practice, and the Health Ecologies Lab, including physicians, researchers, and administrators. At the end of the course, students will have the opportunity to present their ideas about theories and methodologies of listening to the course partners.