Teaching

I teach courses in health humanities, disability studies, American literature, and writing. You can browse course descriptions below. My full Teaching Portfolio, including course evaluations, is available upon request.

Current Courses

Introduction to Methods in Health Humanities (Graduate Seminar)

Surgical Ward 1939 by Sam Haile 1909-1948

Sam Haile, “Surgical Ward” (1939)

Course Description: This interdisciplinary graduate seminar will introduce students to topics and methods in health humanities. In recent years, scholars have sought to define the field of health humanities as a broader and more inclusive set of research practices and objects of study than related fields like medical humanities. Therefore, this course will sample critical and creative texts that represent this field-expanding trend. Students will read foundational texts in health humanities as well as related fields including (critical) medical humanities, narrative medicine, disability studies, graphic medicine, and rhetoric of health and medicine. Together, we will aim to define the scope, methods, and values that constitute the field of health humanities.

Introduction to Disability Studies (200-level)

Disability SymbolsCourse Description: Disability Studies is an interdisciplinary field that, according to Simi Linton, “aims to expose the ways that disability has been made exceptional and to work to naturalize disabled people.” Almost every human will experience a significant illness or disability in their lifetime; therefore, investigating the lived experience, representations, and cultural understandings of disability give us insight into the ever-changing relationship between our selves, bodies, and worlds. This course will introduce students to key critical concepts and debates in the field of Disability Studies by drawing on multiple disciplinary perspectives. Through readings (critical essays, fiction, memoir, poetry, and film), guest lectures, and professor and student-led discussion, students in this course will be introduced to the biomedical, social, minority, and justice models of disability; explore the histories of particular disability communities and activists; examine representations of disability from across historical periods and cultural contexts; and study how multiple forms of inequality and oppression intersect with disability and disability justice work.

Healers & Patients (First Year Seminar)

The Doctor exhibited 1891 by Sir Luke Fildes 1843-1927

Luke Fields, “The Doctor” (1891)

Course Description: When medical anthropologist Arthur Kleinman writes that “illness has meaning,” he reminds us that the human experience of being sick involves more than bodily symptoms. Moreover, the effects of illness and debility are rarely confined to one person. In this course, we will analyze a diverse collection of writers who have taken as their topic the human struggle to make sense of suffering and debility through a range of genres including fiction, non-fiction, graphic memoir, podcasts, and oral histories.

Divided into five units, the course will allow us to explore not just the medical, but also the personal, ethical, cultural, spiritual, and political facets of illness from the perspectives of patients, healers, and families. Central texts may include Abby Norman’s Ask Me About My Uterus, Damon Tweedy’s Black Man in a White Coat, and Jennifer Brea’s (dir.) Unrest. We will also read shorter selections from an array of authors, such as Atul Gawande, Bettina Judd, Arthur Kleinman, Audre Lorde, Mia Mingus, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, and Susan Sontag. Additionally, students will utilize the growing archive of oral histories from the Stories to Save Lives project to learn more about the experiences of patients, healers, and families from across North Carolina.

*You can access student projects on our course website.

Writing in Health & Medicine (First-Year Writing)

Group WritingCourse Description: This course is a specialized composition course designed for students interested in a variety of careers in health and medicine. Although the course primarily emphasizes writing and research in the health and medical sciences, it also exposes students to interdisciplinary research methods and research questions. Because the kinds of writing required of healthcare professionals is diverse, you will develop skills in a number of different genres. We will analyze the rhetorical and stylistic conventions that govern professional and academic writing in health and medicine, study how genres function, and learn how to adapt genres to fulfill our own purposes and meet the needs of a variety of audiences.

Introduction to American Literature: Protest & Dissent (100-level)

Protest and DissentCourse Description: The United States was founded through dissent, and the tradition of collective action has shaped the country and its literature ever since. This course will focus on major American authors who engaged in forms of literary protest from approximately 1850-1950 including Harriet Jacobs, Stephen Crane, James Weldon Johnson, Kate Chopin, John Steinbeck, and Miné Okubo.

We will think of literature and protest as broadly as possible to make connections across time to consider the rich literary history that continues to inform our contemporary moment. The historical period covered in this class—from the dawn of the Civil War until World War II—established many political and cultural trends that continue to shape forms of protest in the 21st century. Accordingly, we will study the past with a focus on how it informs our present.

Through our study of major American authors, we will attempt to answer some of the following questions: How has literature been mobilized as a form of protest? What impact has dissent had on American literature? What cultural narratives shape our understanding of protest and dissent?

Past Vanderbilt Courses

Health Humanities (300-level)

Surgical Ward 1939 by Sam Haile 1909-1948

Sam Haile, “Surgical Ward” (1939)

Course Description: Whether as a patient, provider, and/or caregiver, we all have (or will have) extensive experiences in the world of healthcare. From everyday health practices to acute and chronic illness, we are reminded of the materiality and mortality of the human body. How do we communicate these experiences through stories and cultural practices? What do the stories we create—about wellness, about illness, about disability, about healing, about mortality—tell us about our culture, our history, and our experience of being human?

In this introduction to Health Humanities, we will apply the critical reading and analytical practices of the humanities to a range of texts—novels, memoirs, articles, poems, films—that explore material, cultural, and political aspects of human health. We will study how ideas about health change over time and across cultures. Topics will include patient and provider perspectives, patient advocacy, graphic medicine, chronic illness and pain, disability studies, epidemics and the “outbreak narrative,” and science fiction.

The goals of this course are to:

  • Understand humanistic ways of knowing and apply them to our study of human health.
  • Examine diverse perspectives of health and healthcare and discuss different factors that impact the experience of illness and access to healthcare.
  • Understand how cultural narratives and assumptions shape experiences of health and healthcare and in the process become more aware of one’s own assumptions.
  • Develop analytical skills in critical analysis, close reading, and visual analysis.
  • Enhance group communication skills through participation in full-class discussion, small-group activities, and leading class discussion.
  • Conduct primary and secondary source research and communicate findings in writing and in person.

Narratives of Contagion//Contagious Narratives (Graduate Seminar)

cholera

Robert Seymour, “Cholera. Tramples the victors & the vanquished both” (1831)

Course Description: This graduate seminar will explore how narratives of contagion impact issues of individual and public health; social, environmental, and health justice; and cultural belonging. Like the germs themselves, stories about contagious disease spread and mutate in various forms of fiction and nonfiction. Through our study of narratives of contagion, broadly defined, we will attempt to answer some of the following questions:

  • How have conceptualizations and representations of contagion changed over time?
  • What is the relationship between contagious disease and forms of literary and cultural production?
  • How has the rhetoric of epidemics been adopted in different contexts? To what ends?
  • How do narratives of contagion constitute a vision of what society is and may become?
  • Why are we compelled to respond to and prepare for epidemics through fiction?

The goal of the course is to offer students tools to analyze literature, make them more familiar with histories of contagious disease responses, and provide them with tools to think critically about pressing health and social issues.

* Syllabus available here and included on the Humanities Coronavirus Syllabus.

Interdisciplinary Writing (Graduate Workshop)

wrirtingCourse Description: This course is designed to support MHS graduate students as they develop and write a thesis, practicum project, or other capstone project. We will study how genres function in multiple disciplines and learn how to adapt genres to fulfill our own purposes and meet the needs of a variety of audiences. Throughout the semester, students will work in small writing groups to share writing, both formally and informally. Together, we will explore the everyday challenges of writing and develop strategies to overcome those challenges.

At the end of the semester, students will compile and submit a final portfolio, which will include revised writing assignments, reader’s reports from class writing workshops, a writing plan for the spring semester, and a written personal reflection that assesses their writing process and development in the class. In addition to these projects, each student will be responsible for completing weekly writing tasks and being a productive writing group member.

The goals of the course are to:

  • Introduce students to the conventions of academic writing in a variety of disciplines, utilizing models to assess and understand different genres of writing,
  • Provide opportunities for students to articulate their research for different audiences,
  • Model productive writing habits and writing group best practices, and
  • Train students to communicate and present themselves professionally.