This is the fourth semester in which students read and comment on myincision. I am excited they are joining me here and thrilled as I anticipate reading their comments. Their assignment for this medical humanities unit is to read my first-ever post “Why Horseshoe Crabs?,” choose four other posts, and complete the following exercise: For each post, state its title, publishing date, and the reason you chose it, and then make a Comment, i.e. share a brief impression either on-line or on paper.
I always experience some anxiety about my students reading myincision as I feel I step out of my teacherly role. One of the goals of the blog is to chronicle my pain, frustrations, triumphs, discoveries, and stories about my family and my life in general in relation to living in the aftermath of infant surgery. Is it appropriate to share this deeply personal material in a basic college composition class? Whether it is or isn’t can be debated. What I’ve come to realize is that part of my purpose for being on the planet is to share these experiences with the public.
As a community college instructor, I position my blog within a broader context of the study of medical humanities. Medicine and Literature, Writing as a Healing Art, Poetry as Medicine, Narrative Medicine, and the Medical Memoir are several types of courses within this genre that are offered at various institutes of higher learning. In my 1A course, we read the anthology The Healing Art of Writing, a collection of poems and essays chronicling writers’ journeys with illness and recovery. Blog, Heal, Teach is a Workshop I’ll offer this April at the Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa at The Examined Life Workshop. Studying illness narratives, including mine, at the community college level has its rightful place.
It’s rather humorous that I feel compelled to justify the study of my blog in my class. I think it’s because writing within an academic context is often so prescribed; as a result, it can feel limiting and artificial. We ask students to argue points, think objectively, present evidence, employ critical thinking, and consider counterpoints. This goal is worthy and appropriate. However, I also believe that we overemphasize this type of writing, ignoring countless other powerful approaches to relating ideas to and in the world.
So students, I offer you a three-week reprieve in which you can explore the inner workings of self and do the work of a college student: synthesizing, organizing, explaining, and analyzing. The art of the personal narrative is about capturing experience with creativity and clarity in such a way that it further enlightens readers about the complexities of being human. A truly worthy academic pursuit in my opinion.