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Literature, Medicine, and Culture, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine

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posted on 2022-07-07, 13:25 authored by Post Discipline AdminPost Discipline Admin
Literature, Medicine, and Culture provides students with an opportunity to consider contemporary medicine and treatment in relation to historical experiences, ideas, and imagination. Course readings explicitly pose questions about the present in relation to the past, the challenges of modern therapeutics and how they affect enduring ideas about human nature, and the experience of illness from the patient perspective. Students will build on their Humanities and Systems knowledge base concerning the cultural contexts of illness, treatment, and care. Course content varies according to instructor expertise and topic selection. Students who complete the course will increase their knowledge about medical history and the patient experience, imaginative portrayals of illness and health, and societal approaches to disease and disability. They will be able to identify rhetorical features of disease narratives and historically consistent elements of human experience of illness. In addition, students will enhance skills in reading, interpretation, and analytic writing, as well as observational skills. Classroom discussion and informal assignments help students develop sophisticated understanding of medicine and human experience in context, training them to think critically and in complex ways about the human experience of health and illness, and to represent their developing ideas in written assignments and/or creative projects. Other elements of health humanities learning, such as consideration of professional identity formation and ethics, may be included in course content. The Humanities Curriculum at Penn State College of Medicine integrates applied humanities learning across all four years of undergraduate medical education. Instructors use memoir, drama, fiction, and poetry in contexts where the material meets specific needs in learning, generally within a narrative medicine framework. For instance, there are elective courses in literature in the fourth year of study, and some limited literary sources are integrated throughout phase one (first 1.5 years). Previous curricula involved more direct literary learning, but current curricula makes greater use of visual arts. Humanities offerings are very robust, but are practice-oriented. Faculty tend to utilize those forms of literature that the students see as applicable to their professional goals. 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

Middle Atlantic

University or College

Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine

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

Literature, Medicine, and Culture

Academic Year(s) Active


Course Enrolment


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