The aim of the course is to introduce students to the interdisciplinary discourse of the medical humanities, biopolitics, medical anthropology, body and gender studies by reading literary, visual, and cinematic texts on the representation of medicine, disease and contagion in British, American, French, Romanian, German Spanish and Hungarian cultural history. As an introduction to the course we will discuss visual images of health and disease in contemporary culture (posters of prevention campaigns) as well as the culturally constructed notions of the normal and the pathological in Michael Moore’s Sicko (2007). The next section of the course is devoted to the notion of contagion, in which we reflect on the plague as a modernist allegory of divine punishment and totalitarian regimes (Albert Camus’s The Plague and excerpts from Daniel Defoe’ A Journal of the Plague Year,), cholera and Victorian sanitary reforms, the colonial vs. domestic notions of purity (the film version of Somerset Maugham’s novelette, The Painted Veil), and finally AIDS as a contemporary epidemic and the various kinds of stigmatization evoked by it (Dallas Buyers’ Club and poems from Thom Gunn’s volume, The Man with Night Sweats). Then, the seminar focuses on 21st-century dilemmas like biopolitics and the notion of the camp (Denial), the ethics of cloning(Never Let Me Go), surveillance, security and the heritage of WWII (The Lives of Others), pregnancy, abortion and state socialism in (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days), dissection as a detective story (A nyomozó), the crisi of care(Talk to Her), and finally old age and death with (in)dignity (Amour).
Presence at classes: no more than three absences are allowed. In the case of a longer absence (either due to illness, or official leave), the tutor and the student will come to an agreement of how to solve the problem.
Assigned reading: The seminar format and the reading requirements suppose that the assigned texts are read for the classes. Tests on the assigned readings can be expected at each seminar. The result of these tests contributes to the seminar grade. If your overall achievement in these tests is less than 60%, your seminar is a failure (the grade is a one). You will be granted, though, one chance to make up for the failure of these minor tests as agreed with your course tutor.
Reader’s journal: the student is expected to keep a reader’s journal in a separate notebook, recording opinions, impressions, raising questions. The journals are to be in class, and to be used for facilitating discussions.
Participation in classroom discussion: the student is expected to take an active part in classroom discussions. This activity contributes to the seminar grade by 30% of the overall achievement. (The reader’s journal can be of great help in this respect.)
Presentation: every student will give a short presentation (10 minutes or so) on a theoretical
text related to one of the discussed topics. The presenter has to prepare a carefully edited handout for the group. The presentation cannot be completely read out, the student can of course check his/her notes while presenting. The student has to consult with the instructor one week before the presentation and show her the handout.
End-term test: an objective test on the works discussed during the term. The test must be written at the time scheduled in the syllabus. Failing to do so will count as course failure, and only one re-sit test will be scheduled to make up for the failure. The test will have a pass limit: failing the test will count as course failure, and only one re-sit test will be scheduled to make up for the failure. For percentage, see the grading policy below.
Assigned readings: the films are available on the librarians’ computer in rm. 101 or will be sent by the instructor via email (pdf documents or links).
Orientation: the normal and the pathological, biopolitics and the medical humanities in contemporary culture
Michael Moore: Sicko (2007)
Sontag, Susan. Illness as a Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors. London: Penguin, 1991: 59-72.
Masks of the Black Death: from premodern to modern images of the plague
Albert Camus: The Plague
Cooke, Jennifer. “Introduction ‘But I ain’t dead’.” Legacies of Plague in Literature, Theory and Film. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009: 1-15.
Cleanliness is godliness: cholera, Victorian sanitary reforms and the colonial notions of pollution
The Painted Veil (John Curran, 2006)
Pelling, Margaret. “The meaning of contagion: reproduction, medicine and metaphor.” Contagion: Historical and Cultural Studies. Eds. Alison Bashford and Claire Hooker. London and New York: Routledge, 2002: 15-38.
Haraway, Donna. “The Biopolitics of Postmodern Bodies: Constitutions of Self in Immune system Discourse.” Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, New York: Routledge, 1991: 203-230.
English patients: cloning and dystopia
Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek, 2010)
Philomena Essed and Gabriele Schwab. “Introduction: Cloning and Cultures of Replication.” Clones, Fakes and Posthumans: Cultures of Replication. Eds. Philomena Essed and Gabriele Schwab. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2012: 9-22.
Modernity as a camp: the Holocaust in the post-fact era
Denial (Mick Jackson, 2016)
Lemke, Thomas. “Sovereign Power and Bare Life: Giorgio Agamben.” Biopolitics: An Advanced Introduction. Trans. Eric Frederick Trump. New York and London: New York University Press, 2011:53-64.
The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
Foucault, Michel. “The Subject and Power.” Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics. Eds. Hubert L. Dreyfus, Paul Rabinov. Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1983: 208-26.
Abortion and the sexual politics of Eastern European state socialism 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
Andrea Virginás. “Fragile Diegetic Spaces and Mobile Women: Coping with Trauma in Hungarian and Romanian Films.” Cultural Studies Approaches in the Study of Eastern European Cinema Spaces, Bodies, Memories. Ed. Virginás Andrea. Newxastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016: 66-84.
Protevi, John. “Terri Schiavo: The Somatic Body Politic.” Political Affect: Connecting the Social and the Somatic. Minneapolis, London:
University of Minnesota Press, 2009: 115-140.
Bodies on the table:dissection as a detective story
A nyomozó (Attila Gigor, 2008)
Bényei, Tamás. “‘Nem akarom, hogy legyen valami’”: Ábrázolás, test és nyomozás Gigor Attila A nyomozo című filmjében.” Test és szubjektivitás a rendszerváltás utáni magyar filmben. Eds. Zsolt Győri and György Kalmár. Debrecen: Debreceni Egyetemi Kiadó, 2013:85-97.
Old age and death with (in)dignity
Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)
Elias, Norbert. “Ageing and Dying: Some Sociological Problems.” The Loneliness of the Dying. Trans. Edmund Jephcott. New York, London: Continuum,  2001:68-91.