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Poetry for the Uninitiated: Dannie Abse’s “X-Ray” in an Undergraduate Medicine and Literature Class

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Abstract

I recently taught an upper-division Honors class in Medicine and Literature with students ranging from a pre-physician’s assistant student and nursing student to English, French, History, and Technical Writing majors. The common thread connecting these students initially was their self-described fear of and helplessness with poetry. However, as the semester drew to a close, their class discussion and journals revealed not only increased comfort with poetry but also a preference for it. The information and insight they got from poetry, they said, were the reason they took a medical humanities course in the first place and commented that the poetry we read provoked more substantial “medicine and literature” discussions than prose. Poetry provides a good starting place to analyze complex human relationships, and the focus on language and form levels the intellectual playing field: students are all unfamiliar with how to do it and are learning a new skill together. This could be accomplished, of course, with a literary short story, but for the diverse population of students in this class, the brevity of poetry made it all the more appealing.

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References

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Author information

Correspondence to Sally Bishop Shigley.

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Shigley, S.B. Poetry for the Uninitiated: Dannie Abse’s “X-Ray” in an Undergraduate Medicine and Literature Class. J Med Humanit 34, 429–432 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10912-013-9242-8

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Keywords

  • Pedagogy
  • Medical or health humanities
  • Undergraduate
  • Poetry