The sudden outbreak of COVID 19 pandemic has led to a paradigmatic shift in our lives, perspective, and thought process. It has led us to think, to plan, to fashion our lives differently. Social distancing, work from home, digital learning, webinars and even web concerts have become our new normal. Actually, we are on the verge of transition from where our life will eventually take a new turn.
As we are trying to adjust our coexistence with an unknown and unforeseen virus, I am quite sure that most of us have begun to take interests in the recent research and development regarding the availability of corona vaccine in the market. Nowadays, the discourse of disease and its cure is not confined within medical practitioners. Today, everyone is curious about the symptoms of corona, its prospective treatments and eagerly waiting for the vaccine to come. It’s our body after all!
Literature has absorbed several disciplines like a sponge. War, pandemic, city under siege, science, astronomy, geographical expedition, politics, religion, economics─almost all arenas have left their imprint in the corpus of works which we, the students of literature, get to learn. Who knew that the apparently innocent nursery rhyme “Ring-a-ring-o’ Roses” actually refers to the Great Plague, which severely affected the population of England in 1665? The two World Wars have given rise to some of the memorable war poetry like “Strange Meeting” by Wilfred Owen or “The Soldier” by Rupert Brooke.
During Renaissance, the period when modern science took its birth in Europe, natural scientists were also known as experimental philosophers. Science was considered as a crucial aspect of the new learning/humanism. The thinkers of Renaissance Europe were not used to compartmentalize disciplines and were always guided by an association of ideas. For example, many of us are not aware that the creator of the Mona Lisa, that is, Leonardo da Vinci, was also an expert in mechanics and hydraulics. Copernicus, the man who projected the idea of heliocentric model of universe, also studied law and medicine.
With the emerging trends of interdisciplinary approach nowadays, there is a tendency to revive the long lost tradition, which was based on the association of ideas. The CBCS curriculum of English literature not only focuses on literary texts but also includes significant components of culture studies. Consequently, a student of literature learns to critically consider all aspects of life and develop his/her own insight. If we look at the repository of MPhil and PhD works available today, we will find that a student with literature background is working on interesting areas like Autobiographical writings of scientists, Life Writings of Tea Planters, History and Philosophy of Science, for which he/she has to step into the core areas of several other disciplines.
Medical Humanities: Definition
Recent situation has inculcated academic and research interest of several aspirant researchers towards medical humanities. Now, what is medical humanities? The simplest definition would be that which brings arts and humanities within the domain of medicine and healthcare. Thomas R. Cole, Ronald A. Carson, and Nathan S. Carlin in their work Medical Humanities: An Introduction attempts to define medical humanities as, “medical humanities as an inter- and multidisciplinary field that explores contexts, experiences, and critical and conceptual issues in medicine and health care, while supporting professional identity formation”. It emerged chiefly as a response to “dehumanizing tendencies” and commercializing of health care system” resulted due to enormous success of modern medicine. Needless to say, its chief purpose is to educate medical professionals and instill some kind of ethics/moral values/sensitivity in them. It directly addresses the patient’s right to know his/her body, the issue of public trust, the concerns of medical pedagogy and other such issues.
Medical Humanities: Relevance in present day
- It has developed as a new area of research to anyone who is interested in various nuances of the discourse of health, disease and recovery.
- This interdisciplinary approach is extremely significant for medical practitioners
- It addresses the issue of isolation and dehumanization in health sector and thus tries to create a sympathetic community comprising of medical professionals and patients
Medical Humanities: Recent Imprint in Academia
I have recently come across a call for papers in the website of a reputed journal that has invited articles in several sub areas like Graphic medicine, Narrative medicine, Health and politics, Ethics of caring and nursing, Digital health humanities and so on. This call for papers whetted my curiosity and after a rigorous search in web, I have found several books and noted journals on medical/health humanities that have been publishing critical articles on medicine and medical education. A pertinent question has also been raised. Can Health/Medical humanities be included within medical pedagogy? If so, in what way would it leave its impact on the ethics of medical professionals? I am quite sure that in near future there will be a corpus of research works in this area, which would dwell upon the dialogic interaction between art, literature, philosophy and medicine.
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