Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 481–491 | Cite as

Begin with a Text: Teaching the Poetics of Medicine

  • Catherine BellingEmail author


This paper suggests that the purpose of humanities teaching within medical education should be primarily to teach and promote the informed, attentive, critical, and precise reading of the multiple texts that constitute medicine as a discursive field—in short, a poetics of medicine. This claim is illustrated by reconsidering Margaret Edson’s play Wit, not as it is often used in medical education, as a cautionary tale about unprofessional behavior or as a way to inculcate “humanistic skills,” but as an analysis of the relationships between texts and feelings—or cognition and emotion, or science and art. This reading is illustrated by comparing the poetics of Wit with those of two other texts representing ovarian cancer: a scientific paper in Oncology and a clinical case conference in JAMA.


Medical humanities Medical education Wit (Margaret Edson) Ovarian cancer Poetics Textual analysis 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Medical Humanities and BioethicsNorthwestern University Feinberg School of MedicineChicagoUSA

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