Spring 2013 - Undergraduate Course Descriptions

Gossin, Pamela
Discipline and Number
HUMA 3300 Section 502
R Time 7:00 PM - 9:45 PM
Course Title
Reading and Writing Texts

Description of Course:

HUMA 3300.502 Reading and Writing Texts: NATURE, SCIENCE, MEDICINE

In this course we will explore concepts of nature and human nature through various forms of medical and scientific writings, including: nature writing, nature poetry, science fiction, scientific and medical essays, and film. We will consider many of the complex ethical issues that arise from new discoveries in medicine and the sciences. We will learn a variety of ways to read and write about nature and human nature and consider how such texts are artful as well as scientific. We will learn to identify rhetorical strategies (persuasive techniques), practice troubleshooting our own drafts, and enhance our understanding and use of creative writing techniques.

Some of the questions we will examine include: What is nature? What is natural? How do we value the natural world? How did medical and scientific ways of knowing about life (human and otherwise) develop? Have physicians always cared for patients in the same way over time? How have medical ethics developed? To what extent can medicine be considered an art, a science, an applied technology? With what consequences for patient care and outcomes? What kinds of issues will face us as individuals in an increasingly medicalized body, in an increasingly scientific and technological society? How can the ancient technologies of reading and writing adapt to these changes and empower us to meet such challenges?
The course format will be primarily discussion with a few descriptive or informative mini-lectures and videos, and will include special units on animated representations of nature and literature and medicine. By popular demand, students will have the option of working on personal statements for applications to Medical School / Graduate School for extra credit.

* This course counts toward the minor in Medical and Scientific Humanities (MaSH) *

Required Texts:


1. Science and the Human Spirit (electronic reserve; selections)
2. Reading the Environment (anthology, selections)
3. Miyazaki, Hayao, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (graphic novel)
4. A Life in Medicine: A Literary Anthology, Robert Coles, ed.
5. 1 additional book (for the 5 pp paper), students' choice, from the following options:
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring; A. Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek; Ted Kooser, Delights and Shadows (poetry); J. Bove, A Mile in Her Boots; J. Krakauer, Into the Wild; A. Gore, An Inconvenient Truth; L. Brown, Plan B 2.0; M. Pollan, Omnivore's Dilemma; M. Gladwell, Blink or Tipping Point; S. Levitt, Freakonomics; J. Groopman, How Doctors Think; Atul Gawande, Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science;

Course Requirements/Evaluation Criteria:


- Two unit exams; combination of essay and objective = 1/4th each
- One 5 pp analytical and interpretative paper with one 5-10 min. in-class summary = 1/4
- Attendance and participation (quizzes, in-class writing, discussion) = 1/4
* Optional extra credit/enrichment opportunities: Listen in class for info on these!

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