Tag Archives: literature

The Technology of Living and Dying

Dr. John Roberts discusses aging and decline in John Updike’s writing in our Faculty Fellows Seminar on Health, Well-Being, Healing
By Saralyn McKinnon-Crowley

Last week’s Faculty Fellows Seminar in “Health, Well-Being, Healing” focused on questions of dying and, specifically, how new life-prolonging technologies compel one to rethink what it means to die. Dr. John Robertson of the School of Law presented his current research on Left Ventricular Assistance Devices (LVADs) and the later poetry and prose of John Updike. Dr. Robertson is especially interested in Updike’s short story “The Full Glass”—written shortly before Updike’s own death in 2009—about aging and decline. Updike’s protagonist reflects on a small detail of his daily life, filling his bedtime glass of water, to think about the end of life without directly confronting the experience of dying. Dr. Robertson’s work-in-progress on this material is entitled “Writers at the End—John Updike’s ‘The Full Glass,’” which he hopes to publish in the journal Literature and Medicine. Although “The Full Glass” does not address machines or surgical implants (such as LVADs), Updike’s writing reflects on the quality of life from the perspective of an elderly man.

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Health Care Economies and the Danger of Words

Dr. Phil Barrish discusses the literature of health care in HI’s Faculty Fellows Seminar on Health, Well-Being, Healing
By Clare Callahan

The Humanities Institute Spring 2017 Faculty Fellows Seminar on
“Health, Well-Being, Healing”
has begun! At our first meeting on February 21st, Phil Barrish, Professor of English, presented his work-in-progress, “Environmental Illness and the Future of Health Care,” a literary analysis of Chang-Rae Lee’s first work of speculative fiction On Such a Full Sea. Lee’s On Such a Full Sea imagines three health care scenarios that respond to the long-term effects of human-wrought environmental damage on human health, and more specifically to the uneven distribution of this environmental depredation. The three scenarios present in the novel are based on our contemporary discourse on health care, from “a left-wingers dystopian projection of the health care landscape under a supposed free market system,” as Barrish describes it, to “a right-winger’s nightmare vision of . . . a single-payer government-run system.” Dr. Barrish’s essay, whichon-such-a-full-sea-ppbk examines the representation of the political economy of health care in On Such a Full Sea, builds off of his previously published work, including his essay “Health Policy in Dystopia,” published in Literature and Medicine in 2016 and “The Sticky Web of Medical Professionalism: Robert Herrick’s The Web of Life and the Political Economy of Health Care at the Turn of the Century,” published in American Literature in 2014.

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