Thursday 12 April 2012

Medical Humanities?

Medicine and Literature cross paths in several ways. There's

  • Poetry on the Brain - Helen Mort's Neuroscience-inspired approach
  • Your Brain on Fiction - a New York Times article about brain scans and novels. "when subjects in their laboratory read a metaphor involving texture, the sensory cortex, responsible for perceiving texture through touch, became active. Metaphors like 'The singer had a velvet voice' ... roused the sensory cortex, while phrases matched for meaning, like 'The singer had a pleasing voice' ... did not". "individuals who frequently read fiction seem to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and see the world from their perspective"
  • Psychology, psychiatry and writers, which is more to do with mental health

I didn't realise there was a discipline called "Medical Humanities". According to the wikipedia entry, "The humanities and arts provide insight into the human condition, suffering, personhood, our responsibility to each other, and offer a historical perspective on medical practice. Attention to literature and the arts helps to develop and nurture skills of observation, analysis, empathy, and self-reflection - skills that are essential for humane medical care."

It sounds like an excuse to watch "Gray's Anatomy" rather than go to lectures. To give you a flavour of the more academic approach, here's the start of the abstract of "Illness narratives: reliability, authenticity and the empathic witness" from Med Humanities 2011;37 - "Several scholarly trends, such as narrative medicine, patient-centered and relationship-centered care, have long advocated for the value of the patient's voice in the practice of medicine. As theories of textual analysis are applied to the understanding of stories of illness, doctors and scholars have the opportunity to develop more nuanced and multifaceted appreciation for these accounts. We realize, for example, that a patient's story is rarely 'just a story,' but is rather the conscious and unconscious representation and performance of intricate personal motives and dominant meta-narrative influences."

There's also Hektoen International (a journal about medical humanities). Literature, Arts and Medicine Blog looks interesting too.

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