University of Oxford

File(s) not publicly available

Narrative Ethics: Health, Medicine, and Literature, University of Pennsylvania (Perelman)

online resource
posted on 2022-07-06, 16:21 authored by Post Discipline AdminPost Discipline Admin
What is it like to live with a chronic, debilitating, or fatal illness? What does it mean to treat a sick person as a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional? And how does it feel to be a caregiver, witness, or outside party in such circumstances? All of these questions will inform the central query of this course: How do personal narratives inform, explain, or complicate our understandings of the medical world? In recent decades, medical humanities scholars and bioethicists have striven to include the perspectives of multiple persons in the history and storytelling of medicine. Moreover, leading medical, nursing, and public health schools have incorporated narrative studies as a part of the training of their future doctors, nurses, and clinicians. While such strategies have been innovative at the level of revamping scholastic curriculums, they are hardly new in medical history. From the case study to the medical history to the talking cure, storytelling has been a central component in the diagnostic, therapeutic, and pastoral strategies of medical cosmologies for centuries. As a trans-historical study of medical storytelling, this course will be concerned with the power of narratives to bring coherence and meaning to the lives of sick persons, caregivers, and medical professionals at moments of great physical and emotional crisis. Accordingly, this course will consider a range of historical and contemporary topics that speak to the bioethical dilemmas of telling, reading, disseminating, and interpreting medically relevant narratives. While we will largely focus on non-fictional accounts (memoirs, medical records, journals, and testimonials), we will also consider how fictional literary sources (stories, poetry, films, and works of art) explore and affect matters related to the topic of “narrative and bioethics.” UPenn does not currently offer any FOR-CREDIT courses that rely on narratives for teaching. In other words, courses that are firmly in the arts and humanities are all electives, NON-credit. This course is credit-bearing, but contributes to the fulfilment of the Master of Bioethics (MBE) Program, rather than a professional Medicine (MD) Program. 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

University of Pennsylvania (Perelman)

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

Narrative Ethics: Health, Medicine, and Literature

Terminal Degree of Instructor(s)

PhD English

Position of Instructor(s)

Associate Director of the Master of Bioethics Program

Academic Year(s) Active

2015/16, 2017/18, 2020/21

Usage metrics

    Post-Discipline: Literature, Professionalism, and the Crisis of the Humanities



    Ref. manager