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In an age of remarkable advances in medical science, the humanities are more important than ever to understanding health, illness, mortality, and well-being. Medical knowledge has always been shaped by culture, narrative, philosophy, and history. As medicine extends human life and physical capability, it brings with it difficult ethical questions about the alteration of the body, the unequal distribution of care, aging, disability, and the end of life. For this reason, leading physicians and institutions worldwide have recently called for the urgent return of the humanities to medical education and practice. This movement, "the medical humanities," emphasizes the human experience of illness and suffering through the study of history, literature, philosophy, religion, art, anthropology, and other humanities disciplines. Beyond the training of future health practitioners, these approaches offer all of us a deeper understanding of the lives we lead, the values informing our medical decisions, and the nature of our commitment to collective health and well-being.

The 2016-2017 Altman Program invites faculty, students, alumni, and the public to explore matters of life and death at the intersection of medicine and the humanities. How does culture influence conceptions of disease, health, aging, and mortality? How is medical knowledge affected by philosophical assumptions, economic conditions, and political considerations?  How might the study of narrative, ethics, and history—even the history of long-dismissed theories—cultivate not only humility and empathy but also diagnostic acumen? How do we navigate the complex ethical dilemmas spawned by technologies capable of extending human life, modifying the body, and controlling reproduction?  And how can the humanities inform our sense of well-being, our ideas about our bodies and our health, and our desire to craft a meaningful life in the face of our own mortality?

Distinguished Lectures

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John Mcgowan
John W. and Anna H. Hanes Professor of English and Comparative Literature, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Can Medicine Save the Humanities, and Vice Versa?

September 1, 2016 4:00 PM
John E. Dolibois Room, Shriver Center
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Wendy Kline
Dema G. Seelye Professor of the History of Medicine, Purdue University

The Power and Politics of Countercultural Medicine

September 14, 2016 5:00 PM
Miami University Art Museum
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Sonia Shah
Science Journalist and Author

Pandemics: Tracking Contagion from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond

October 13, 2016 7:00 PM
Armstrong Student Center, Pavilion C
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David Serlin
Associate Professor of Communication, University of California, San Diego

Designs for Living: Rethinking the Medical Model of Disability through Architecture

November 10, 2016 4:00 PM
Shideler 152
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Ann Elizabeth Armstrong & Saffron Henke

WIT: A Staged Reading of Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-Winning Play

November 15, 2016 7:00 PM
Leonard Theater, Peabody Hall
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Keith Wailoo
Townsend Martin Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton University

The Politics of Pain

January 26, 2017 7:00 PM
Shideler 152
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Judith Farquhar
Max Palevsky Professor of Anthropology Emerita and of Social Sciences, University of Chicago

Medicine, Culture, and Modern China

February 27, 2017 4:00 PM
Heritage Room, Shriver Center
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Arthur W. Frank
Professor of Sociology, University of Calgary

Two Solitudes: Doctors’ and Patients’ Stories

March 9, 2017 7:00 PM
John E. Dolibois Room, Shriver Center
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John Evans
Professor of Sociology, University of California, San Diego

The Eclipse of the Sacred Human: Are Human Rights Under Threat from Medical Science?

March 13, 2017 4:00 PM
John E. Dolibois Room, Shriver Center
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Philip van der Eijk
Humboldt Professor of Classics and History of Science, Humboldt University of Berlin

Health, Responsibility, and Lifestyle in Ancient Medical and Philosophical Thought

April 6, 2017 4:00 PM
John E. Dolibois Room, Shriver Center
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Suzanna Anker, Anne Harrington & Domenico Bertoloni Meli

2016-2017 Altman Symposium: Medicine and the Humanities

April 20, 2017 4:00 PM

2016-17 Altman Scholars

Emily Zakin

Emily Zakin studies nineteenth- and twentieth-century continental philosophy, psychoanalysis, and feminist theory. Her current research focuses onthe limits and possibilities of political community. The author of numerous book chapters and articles, she was also a co-founder of the journal PhiloSOPHIA and is the co-editor of Derrida and Feminism: Recasting the Question of Woman (Routledge, 1997) and Bound by the City: Greek Tragedy, Sexual Difference, and the Formation of the Polis (SUNY, 2009). 

Liz Wilson

Liz Wilson studies pre-modern Buddhism, South Asian Hinduism, and Jainism with a focus on issues of family, gender, sexuality, and aging. She is the author of Charming Cadavers: Horrific Figurations of the Feminine in Indian Buddhist Hagiographic Literature (Chicago, 1996) and the editor of The Living and the Dead: Social Dimensions of Death in South Asian Religion (SUNY, 2003) and Family in Buddhism: Buddhist Vows and Family Ties (SUNY, 2013). 

Zara M. Torlone

Zara M. Torlone is Professor of Classics and core faculty member of the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies. Her areas of specialization are Roman poetry and classical reception in Russia. Her publications include Russia and the Classics: Poetry’s Foreign Muse, (Bloomsbury, 2009); Roman Love Poetry (Oxford, 2013). Her latest book, Vergil in Russia: National Identity and Classical Reception, was published by the Oxford University Press in January of 2015. Her other recent publications include edited volumes Blackwell-Wiley Handbook on Classical Reception in Eastern and Central Europe (2017) and Virgil and his Translators (Oxford, 2018).

Jonathan Strauss

Jonathan Strauss, Professor and Chair of French, specializes in literature and culture from 1800 to the present and focusing on issues of subjectivity, mortality, and life. He is the author of Subjects of Terror: Nerval, Hegel, and the Modern Self (Stanford, 1998), Human Remains: Medicine, Death, and Desire in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Fordham, 2012), and Private Lives, Public Deaths: Antigone and the Invention of Individuality (Fordham, 2013). He has also edited a volume of diacritics (Post-Mortem: The State of Death as a Modern Construct, fall 2000) and was a recent fellow at Cornell’s Society for the Humanities. He is currently completing a book on the relations between literary language and the structuring of collective time.

Kaara L. Peterson

Kaara L. Peterson, Associate Professor of English, studies Renaissance medical history, art history, and literature. Her most current publications are Humorality in Early Modern Art, Material Culture, and Performance, with Amy Kenny (Palgrave Macmillan), and The Afterlife of Ophelia, with Deanne Williams (Palgrave Macmillan).  Her essays have appeared in English Literary Renaissance, Renaissance Quarterly, and Studies in Philology, among others, and in collected volumes. She recently held a Plumer visiting fellowship at St. Anne's College, Oxford, and is the recipient of an upcoming Burleigh Visiting Fellowship at the University of Cambridge.

Kate de Medeiros

Kate de Medeiros studies the narrative construction of self in old age, the life story genre, and the experience of dementia. She is the author of Narrative Gerontology in Research and Practice (Springer, 2014) and of numerous articles and book chapters.  Her work has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Alzheimer’s Association, and the Brookdale Foundation. 

Daisy Hernández

Daisy Hernández writes about the intersections of race, citizenship, class, and sexuality. She is the author of A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir (Beacon, 2014) and coeditor of Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today's Feminism (Seal, 2002). A former editor of ColorLines, she has also written for The Atlantic, The New York Times, NPR's All Things Considered and CodeSwitch, and numerous literary magazines.

M. Cameron Hay-Rollins

M. Cameron Hay-Rollins specializes in medical and psychological anthropology. Her work on chronic health conditions has appeared in numerous journals. She is the author of Remembering to Live: Illness at the Intersection of Anxiety and Knowledge in Rural Indonesia (Michigan, 2001) and editor of Methods that Matter: Mixed Methods for a More Effective Social Science (Chicago, 2016). 

Amanda Diekman

Amanda Diekman is a social psychologist who investigates how stereotypes stem from and reinforce the social structure. Her research, funded by the National Science Foundation and published in a wide range of psychology journals, explores how communal opportunities in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math foster engagement by disrupting stereotypes about those fields.

2016-17 Altman Fellows

Cynthia Klestinec

Cynthia Klestinec, Professor of English, studies the history of science and medicine in Renaissance Italy. She is the author of Theaters of Anatomy: Students, Teachers and Traditions of Dissection in Renaissance Venice (Johns Hopkins 2011) and numerous essays. She is co-editor of Professors, Physicians and Practices in the History of Medicine: Essays in Honor of Nancy Siraisi (Springer 2017) and co-curator and co-editor of Art, Faith, and Medicine in Tintoretto’s Venice, an exhibition held in the Scuola Grande di San Marco in Venice (2019). Her work has been supported by the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Villa i Tatti-Harvard University, and the Delmas Foundation. 

Kimberly Hamlin

Kimberly Hamlin focuses on the intersections of gender and science in U.S. history.  She is the author of From Eve to Evolution: Darwin, Science, and Women’s Rights in Gilded Age America (Chicago, 2014), as well as articles on Darwin, sexology, and the origins of the Miss America Pageant. Her essays have won prizes from the History of Science Society and the Nineteenth Century Studies Society.

2016-17 Student Fellows

Sally Wolf

Sally Wolf is a junior honors student with majors in psychology and French and minors in political science and art history. Her interests include the intersections of the arts and mental health.

Daniel T. McClurkin

Daniel T. McClurkin is a senior from Youngstown, Ohio with majors in English, anthropology, and classical humanities. His research currently centers on early modern poetry and melancholy.

Abigail Goldman

Abigail Goldman is a senior international studies and French major from Centerville, Ohio. Her academic interests include colonialism, globalization, and the rights of immigrants and refugees.

Kinsey Cantrell

Kinsey Cantrell of Columbus, Ohio is pursuing a B.A./M.A. in creative writing, a B.A. in English literature, and a minor in Italian.  Her interests include the intersections of mental and physical heath.

Heather Burich

‍Heather Burich is a sophomore honors student from Deerfield, Illinois with a major history and a minor in art history. She hopes to pursue a career in museum curation.

Annabelle Arbogast

Annabelle Arbogast is a doctoral student in social gerontology with an M.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Her current research explores gender, aging, embodiment, and narrative care.