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Literature, Compassion, and Health Care Reading Series 2018

Humanities New York Reading & Discussion Series – Fall 2018

Facilitator: Jack Coulehan, MD

Overview: How can we best understand the experience of illness and suffering in contemporary society? What are the perspectives and experiences of physicians and other health care professionals? What are the social, economic, moral, and existential problems experienced by today’s patients and their health care professionals? We will explore these and several related issues in this series of seminars. Our major texts include the medical education memoir of Rachel Pearson, a young American physician; “Next to Normal,” a contemporary musical play about mental illness; and Pat Barker’s Regeneration, an historical novel about shell-shock (PTSD) in World War I and the politics of illness during war. These works will be supplemented by several poems and short stories.

Course objectives:

  1. To discuss and demonstrate the use of literature as a method to provide insight into contemporary health care issues with relation to self, the medical community and the business community.
  2. To discuss and demonstrate the use of literature as a method of enhancing empathy, imaginative identification, and the moral imagination.
  3. To investigate today’s health care system through the eyes of health care professionals and their patients
  4. To describe how the arts and humanities provide insight into contemporary culture and health care institutions.

Coulehan R&D Fall 2018 Syllabus

Texts (please obtain your own copies of the following):

  • Rachel Pearson, No Apparent Distress, New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 2017
  • Pat Barker, Regeneration, London, Plume, 1993
  • Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt, Next to Normal, Theater Communications Group, 2010 (optional)
  • Selected stories and poems to be distributed


Thursdays, 1-3 PM, September 6, 13, 20, and 27

Mondays, 1-3 PM, September 10 and 17

Free and open to the public. Email to register.

Sponsored by Humanities NY