Welcome to the Department of English at Rutgers University

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In the 21st century, disease seems to belong to the clean, well-lighted place of fact and biology. And yet, illness and medical treatment take place in culture and are complicated by language, history, economics, and politics. Literature about illness and/or medicine often explores the meeting place of science and culture, along with shifting understandings of patient and doctor, health and illness, body and mind. In this course, we’ll discuss how literature about illness and embodiment explores physical experience as well as the social and cultural environments that shape that experience. We’ll read a range of 20th-and 21st-century fiction and nonfiction: stories that ponder the limits of language, nonfiction about how different cultures define health and healing; texts that raise questions about the relationship between our brains and our selves; and narratives by physicians and patients that examine the meaning of embodied experience.

This course also fulfills the Core Curriculum Goal for “Writing and Communication with revision (WCr)

Readings may include: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Bauby); The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (Hadden); The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down (Fadiman); Contagion (film, dir. Steven Soderbergh); The Anthropologist on Mars (Sacks); “Letting Go” (Gawande).

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Graduate Program in English


Statue of "Willie the Silent"