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DepositRemembering William Carlos Williams’s “The Use of Force”: Anti-Vaxxers, Medical Ethics, and Short Story Syllabi.

I argue that Williams’s doctor stories must be remembered on our syllabi due to contemporary discursive trends in medical ethics. Treating “The Use of Force” as a case study, I create parallels between its representation of resistance to diphtheria anti-toxin and the rhetoric of “anti-vaxxers” like Jenny McCarthy, Andrew Wakefield, Michelle Bachmann, and Bill Maher. I trace the contemporary resurgence of the anti-vaccination activism that plagued Williams’s own medical career, adapting concepts from Bruno Latour’s “Has Critique Run Out of Steam?” The potential threat to public health has been graphically illustrated by recent vaccine-preventable outbreaks of the measles in New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Indiana, and Minnesota, as well as of mumps, rubella, polio, and whooping cough across the world. I show, with reference to notes from Williams’s unused introduction to The Farmer’s Daughter, that “The Use of Force,” by emphasizing the morally ambiguous struggle between a patient’s (or parents’) choice and a physician’s responsibility, reveals the underlying rhetorical structure of contemporary medical ethics and provides a new way for readers born after the success of the DPT, MMR, and other vaccines to see the consequences of forgetting that struggle.

DepositThe Transitioning of Jewish Biomedical Law: Rhetorical and Practical Shifts in Halakhic Discourse on Sex-Change Surgery

This article examines discourse dynamics in Jewish law on sex-change surgery (SCS) and, in general, transitioning between genders. Orthodox medical ethics has moved beyond the abstract condemnation of SCS to the design of practical rules for transsexuals living in observant communities. The reasoning against SCS has also shifted, both in complexity and with implicit ties to Christian and secular tropes. By medicalizing or, conversely, spiritualizing the experiences of transgendered persons, a few Orthodox authors are opening up interpretive space for sympathetic responses to SCS. Such transitions reach their most elaborate expression in Israeli Orthodox rabbi Edan ben Ephraim’s 2004 monograph, Generation of Perversions, which has taken center stage in Orthodox deliberations on transsexuality. Overall, halakhic discourse seems to be moving in innovative, unavoidably interdiscursive directions.

DepositThe Diving Bell and the Butterfly: Locked-In Syndrome and the (Un)Ethics of Narrative as Personhood

This is a slightly revised version of the paper I gave for the Out of Narrative Bounds panel organized by the forums TC Medical Humanities and Health Studies and TC Age Studies. This panel was chosen as representative of the presidential theme, Boundary Conditions. In this paper I use Jean-Dominque Bauby’s memoir, The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly, to examine ethical issues pertaining to auto/biography studies’ and medical humanities studies’ centralization of the capacity to produce embodied narrative to understandings of identity and personhood.

DepositClass and Ethnicity in the Global Market for Organs: The Case of Korean Cinema

While organ transplantation has been established in the medical imagination since the 1960s, this technology is currently undergoing a popular re-imagination in the era of global capitalism. As transplantation procedures have become routine in medical centers in non-Western and developing nations, and as organ sales and transplant tourism become increasingly common, organs that function as a material resource increasingly derive from subaltern bodies. This essay explores this development as represented in Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook’s 2002 Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, focusing on the ethnic and class characteristics of the global market in organs and possible modes of counter-logic to transplant technologies and related ethical discourses.

MemberTana Jean Welch

Tana Jean Welch is a poet and scholar of contemporary American poetry. She received her Ph.D. in Literature from Florida State University in 2013, specializing in medical humanities, American poetry and poetics, multiethnic literature, posthumanism, new materialism, and gender theory. She is currently Assistant Professor at the Florida State University College of Medicine where she teaches courses in literature, writing, and humanities and serves as the managing editor for HEAL: Humanism Evolving through Arts and Literature. Her critical work has been published in MELUSThe Journal of Ecocriticism, and Academic Medicine. Her poetry has been published in The Southern ReviewPrairie SchoonerThe Gettysburg Review, and other national literary journals. Her first collection of poetry, Latest Volcano, was the winner of the 2015 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize.

MemberAndrew Godfrey-Meers

Andrew Godfrey-Meers is a PhD researcher in English and Comic Studies at the University of Dundee, and was the principal organiser of the 7th International Comics & Medicine conference (theme Stages & Pages) in Dundee in 2016. His research focuses on representations of disability, illness, and medical treatment in the interdisciplinary field and genre of Graphic Medicine. Using ritual, myth, and genre as theoretical tools he explores the tension between transformative and restrictive models in works of Graphic Medicine as well as in the field itself. He has previously self-published comics about his experiences with the chronic illness Cystic Fibrosis, as well as collaborative comics on mental health with Emma Jeramie, under the name Sicker Than Thou. His future research interests include but are not limited to:

  • Examining the limitations of empathy in Graphic Medicine and the Medical Humanities
  • Expanding on research on Graphic Medicine as a field and genre (its discursive and social functions, positioning, and exclusions, etc.)
  • Exploring the potential links between Graphic Medicine, disability, welfare, and healthcare activism (particularly regarding the differences between the UK and US Systems, increasing privatization in the NHS, and coercive healthism and technology)

Currently looking for postdoctoral research positions.

DepositBeyond Accommodation: Disability, Feminist Philosophy, and the Design of Everyday Academic Life

Disability has become a hot topic for feminist philosophy in recent years. Special issues of Hypatia and Disability Studies Quarterly, multiple conference keynote addresses, and a growing cadre of scholars are exploring the intersections of feminist and critical disability thought. As a disabled feminist scholar, I perceive these trends as a signal that the field of feminist philosophy is taking up disability concepts and theories in valuable ways. There is certainly much that feminist philosophers can learn from disabled scholars and critical disability scholarship and activism. Unlike dominant medical models of disability, which treat disabled minds and bodies as objects of knowledge for science and biomedicine, critical disability theories foreground disabled peoples’ knowledge and lived experiences. Often in conversation with feminist theories, they define disability as a valuable form of human variation, cultural diversity, situated knowledge, and a basis for relational ethics that should be preserved, and even desired (Mitchell and Snyder 2006; Kafer 2013; Garland-Thomson 2011).