• Home


Marginalized Bodies & “Medicine” in Literature

Taught by Dr. Giselle Anatol, Professor of English
Time/Place: 5:00-7:30 pm on Tuesdays ♦ TBD

Course Description:

Why is it that African American communities in the U.S. accounted for half of all coronavirus cases and almost 60% of the COVID-19 deaths in Spring 2020? Are these statistics related to the fact that COVID-19 caused nearly 20% of all deaths in Native American and Latinx populations—higher than any other race or ethnicity—by the middle of the summer? And that, even before the pandemic, Black women in the U.S. were 3 – 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than White women?  

In this course, we will use literature from several different time periods to interrogate why diseases might disproportionately impact the lives of those who live on the “margins” of society: people of color, immigrants, the poor, and working-class folks. Writing by authors from a range of genres—science fiction, the history of medicine, memoir, poetry, the personal essay—will be analyzed from interdisciplinary perspectives to see how each work speaks to themes and concerns of health and healthcare, such as varying definitions of “medicine” and “illness,” best practices for physicians and other healthcare workers, possible tensions between spirituality and science, how disparities like employment opportunities, educational access, housing standards, geographical region, cultural and linguistic bias, and sexism (among others) can affect access to adequate care—both physical and mental. 

Texts may include: M.T. Anderson, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: Volume I – The Pox Party; Octavia Butler, Parable of the Sower; Maryse Condé, I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem; Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down; Deirdre Cooper Owens, Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology; Olive Senior, Pandemic Poems; Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony; Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; Sarah Smarsh, Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth; Jonathan Swift, “A Modest Proposal.”

KU Today
Course offerings are “among the most comprehensive in the nation,” according to “A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs”
98% of University Honors Program graduates are employed or accepted to graduate school within six months of graduation
40% of students in the University Honors Program conduct research before graduation
9 to 1: Average ratio of KU honors students to faculty advisors
1 of only 7 programs nationwide to receive a top rating from “A Review of Fifty Public University Honors Programs” in 2014
60% of University Honors Program students study abroad
KU honors students select their advisors from top-ranked KU faculty