, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 451-454

Mad Scientists, Narrative, and Social Power: A Collaborative Learning Activity

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Abstract

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short stories “The Birthmark” (1843) and “Rappaccini’s Daughter” (1844) encourage critical thinking about science and scientific research as forms of social power. In this collaborative activity, students work in small groups to discuss the ways in which these stories address questions of human experimentation, gender, manipulation of bodies, and the role of narrative in mediating perceptions about bodies. Students collectively adduce textual evidence from the stories to construct claims and present a mini-argument to the class, thereby strengthening their skills in communication and cooperative interpretation of ethical dilemmas. This exercise is adaptable to shorter and longer periods of instruction, and it is ideal for instructors who collaborate across areas of expertise.