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Introduction to Narrative Medicine, University of Southern California (Keck)

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posted on 2022-07-06, 16:21 authored by Post Discipline AdminPost Discipline Admin
This course introduces students to the field of narrative medicine, which emerges from the intersection of the humanities, literature and literary theory, and the study and practice of medicine. Echoing each other, medical doctor Rita Charon and sociologist Arthur Frank have observed that illness occasions and calls forth stories.1 This course proceeds from the understanding that people who suffer from illness often frame and make sense of their sickness or disease through narrative, through the telling of their experiences in the form of a story. If, as Arthur Kleinman argues, “the interpretation of narratives of illness experience…is a core task in the work of doctoring,” then developing narrative competence in the area of health and medicine ought to be integrated into the education and training of future health professionals.2 This course provides an opportunity for students to learn about the fundamental principles and basic concepts that underpin narrative medicine. At the same time, it aims to help students develop and hone the skills necessary to gain narrative competence through close and careful examination of theoretical and literary texts, and through the practice of narrative and reflective writing. 1 Rita Charon, Narrative Medicine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); Arthur Frank, The Wounded Storyteller (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995). 2 Arthur Kleinman, The Illness Narratives (New York: Basic Books, 1988), xiii. This course forms part of a graduate master's program offered through the medical school. Almost all of the students who enrolled intended to go on to further graduate training in a health profession (medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, etc.). This information has been collected for the Post-Discipline Online Syllabus Database. The database explores the use of literature by schools of professional education in North America. It forms part of a larger project titled Post-Discipline: Literature, Professionalism, and the Crisis of the Humanities, led by Dr Merve Emre with the assistance of Dr Hayley G. Toth. You can find more information about the project at Data was collected and accurate in 2021/22.


Subject Area


Geographic Region


University or College

University of Southern California (Keck)

Funding Status


Endowment (according to NACUBO's U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2020 Endowment Market Value and Change* in Endowment Market Value from FY19 to FY20) ($1,000)


Annual Tuition and Mandatory Fees 2021-2022 ($) (Resident; Non-resident, where applicable)


Course Title

Introduction to Narrative Medicine

Terminal Degree of Instructor(s)


Position of Instructor(s)


Academic Year(s) Active


Course Enrolment


Primary Works on Reading List

Margaret Edson, W;t; Arthur Kleinman, The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing and the Human Condition; Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals; Akhil Sharma, Family Life; Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors; Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilych; Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, and other clinical tales; Richard Selzer, The Doctor Stories; David Rakoff, Selected Essays (“My Sister of Perpetual Mercy”; “I Used to Bank Here, but That Was Long, Long Ago”; “The Waiting”; “Another Shoe”); Tig Notaro, I’m Just a Person; Randall Jarrell, “The X-Ray Waiting Room in the Hospital”; Elizabeth Bishop, “In the Waiting Room”; Lucille Clifton “The Death of Fred Clifton”; Jane Kenyon, “The Sick Wife”; W.H. Auden, “The Art of Healing”; and Jennifer Worth, Call the Midwife.

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