To explore the biological, social, economic and cultural dimensions of health and medicine in a global and multilingual framework.
The interdisciplinary major track in Medicine, Literature and Society, offered under the auspices of the Institute of Comparative Literature and Society’s Comparative Literature and Society major, prepares qualified students to explore the biological, social, economic and cultural dimensions of health and medicine in a global and multilingual framework. At the level of the individual patient, medicine and medical systems diagnose and treat disease to prolong life and to diminish the suffering that accompanies illness. But in many societies, the reach of modern biomedicine far exceeds the intimate zone of patient and caregiver encompassed by this model. From climate change and food activism to city planning and public housing, from family planning and surrogacy to gendered and racial identities, the biomedical model of health now underwrites national and supra-state policies, corporate ventures, targets of social and political activism and modes of individual engagement. Students enrolled in the MLS major track work at the intersection of these different forces and discourses, examining the many factors, from the biological to the social, economic, political and aesthetic, that influence health and shape our perceptions of physical and psychological wellbeing. Through interdisciplinary work in fields as diverse as neuroscience and comparative literature, they develop their ability to think critically about the reciprocal relationship between health and culture. The major’s unique focus on the cultural and societal dimensions of health and illness promotes an awareness that crosses disciplinary, regional and linguistic divides.
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