Navigating International Academia: Research Student Narratives
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These students bring a range of life skills and experiences to their studies and need to balance competing financial, family and employment related demands on their time and attention. For the international students whose voices dominate this text, there are also barriers of culture, language and physical and emotional dislocation.
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Students from Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Iraq and Romania recount the personal and academic challenges they have faced and the ways in which they have struggled to find a way of being in academia which both accommodates their sense of self and allows them to be recognised as researchers in the international arena. An Australian student adds her voice to the collection. Their stories all combine the intensely personal with the academic. There is the joy of finding libraries full of books, of making friends with strangers, of managing to be student, partner and parent.
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There is pride in the achievement of children coping with school and gratitude for the support of family and fellow students. There is also developing confidence in their ability to contribute to research in the international arena and increasing authority in the ownership of their research.
Can I ever truly know the Other? If so, how?
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What is the role of language in the intersubjective relationship? Students examine various ways of conceptualizing these terms, from Cartesianism, Hegelianism, Phenomenology, Psychoanalysis, Feminism, and other traditions. Through this exploration of intersubjectivity and Otherness, the class challenges our assumptions about the nature of the clinical encounter, with a view toward better understanding the ways that Narrative Medicine might foster authentic intersubjective, empathetic relationships between clinicians and patients.
This course details and models the skills required for the practice of narrative medicine. Although there are many forms of practice in this field, the close reading and reflective writing skills that this course teaches are the foundational skills for our pedagogy, scholarship, and clinical work. As many students will be returning to medical institutions as narrative medicine administrators or facilitators, this course focuses on developing methods for teaching and facilitating discussion and on developing and responding to writing exercises with health care professionals. Literary theory offers the foundation for understanding and knowing what to do with stories, while literary texts offer a broad range of genres, voices, narrative strategies, and techniques from which to teach.
Students in this course will be introduced to a large bank of texts for learning and teaching, including short stories, prose poems, memoirs, novels, and a few films. At the same time that this course demonstrates the theories and methods in seminar, students will be putting these skills into practice in teaching practicums arranged in tandem with the seminar learning. Thoughts and methods will flow among the seminar, full-day intensive sessions, and the practicum. The seminar and full-day sessions will focus on practical questions, such as as what makes a good writing prompt, what is the proper length story to assign to clinical trainees, and does the teacher respond orally or in writing to the writing of a learner.
The aim of the course is to equip students with the knowledge to approach and inhabit stories and the skills to impart this knowledge to others. In this class we will explore the act of writing: how it is done, what it is for, how it works on our minds and bodies, and how it can be used to engender meaningful change in the clinical context.
What really happens to one in the act and wake of writing? We will examine this question through the explorations of writers and thinkers as well as through our own practice and close study of the craft. At the end of the course students should have, in addition to a better understanding of their own strengths, weaknesses, and instincts as writers, a working knowledge of how and why to write with others in a clinical context.
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What is the meaning of embodiment? In truth, however, it is a question we are answering with every intentional movement, feeling, impulse and desire of our conscious life. In this course, we will explore various approaches to embodiment from contemporary thinkers.
During the past decade or so, visual representations of illness have come to the fore to complement language-based narratives. The fields of narrative medicine and arts and medicine are now attuned to the power of visual art—paintings, photography, sculpture, movies, graphic novels—to convey that which even language cannot convey about suffering and healing. The Master of Science in Narrative Medicine has a responsibility to equip its candidates with the skills in visual perception and interpretation necessary to not only behold but also understand the situations of patients as telegraphed by their bodies.
Specifically, the course will strengthen the skill of students to observe and interpret the bodily states of patients so as to improve their clinical capacities. Readings for the seminar will include works of theory, criticism, connoisseurship and the writings of artists themselves.
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We will examine such questions as: Is there such a thing as an artistic personality? To what extent and in what ways can art be taught? Is there a relationship between art-making and mental illness? And why do so many artists allude to suffering, both mental and physical? From Frankenstein to AI, from Brave New World to Gattaca—this course draws upon literature, film and criticism to explore the ways in which popular culture both reflects and informs our understanding of bioethics.
We will investigate the reciprocity between narrative—understood as the form and means of storytelling—and ethics, particularly in the domain of illness, bioethics, and medical practice. Topics include superheroes and disability studies; the Outbreak narrative in literature, film, and current events; the ethics of clinician writing, and the thematic connections between contemporary debates concerning vaccination and the story of Dracula. Narrative medicine, its practice and scholarship, is necessarily concerned with issues of trauma, body, memory, voice, and inter-subjectivity.
However, to grapple with these issues, we must locate them in their social, cultural, political, and historical contexts. If disease, violence, terror, war, poverty, and oppression manifest themselves narratively, then resistance, justice, healing, activism, and collectivity can equally be products of a narrative-based approach to ourselves and the world.
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