The Institute for Comparative Literature and Society (ICLS) at Columbia University has received a Humanities Connections grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to support the development of new classes and the Medicine, Literature and Society major track.

There has been a growing recognition in fields as diverse as biomechanics, neuroscience and engineering that the profound and incisive questions concerning the meaning of human life cannot be properly posed without the thinking tools and framing devices that have traditionally characterized humanities-based education. In response to this recognition, and in tandem with the consideration of these types of critical reasoning as a core tenet of engaged citizenship, this initiative strives to cultivate these skills among humanists and non-humanists alike.

The Humanities Connections Initiative takes the form of a curriculum project development for the ICLS undergraduate major, Medicine, Literature, and Society (MLS): an interdisciplinary major track which lies at the intersection of humanities, medicine and social sciences. How do we extend the traditional biomedical framework to study how health is determined not just by biological factors, but by social, economic, political and aesthetic ones? Our proposed curriculum tackles these concerns by holding commitments to deep language learning (of both European and non-European languages), equipping students with the tools to conduct cross-disciplinary research, and framing the global questions that link the biological to the social and the cultural, at its core.

This project, directed by Dr. Rishi Goyal, MD, PhD covers the development of the core classes of the Medicine Literature and Society major track that directly establish and extend the connections between humanistic and scientific inquiry central to this unique undergraduate major. This sequence of classes will contribute towards making MLS an intellectual home and community where undergraduates develop the patterns of thought and critical resources associated with a humanities-based education in the context of practical engagement like health activism and service learning. Moreover, this new curriculum will build the pedagogical and intellectual collaboration of faculty members across disciplines, opening avenues of collective thought and research in the field of medical humanities.

Collaborating on this project will be

Rachel Adams, Professor of English and Comparative Literature

Rita Charon, MD, PhD; Executive Director, Program in Narrative Medicine

Madeleine Dobie, Professor of French and Comparative Literature

Rishi Goyal, Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Director, Medicine, Literature and Society

Lydia H. Liu, Wu Tsun Tam Professor in the Humanities

Samuel Roberts, Associate Professor of History and Sociomedical Sciences

Kavita Sivaramakrishnan, Assistant Professor of Sociomedical Sciences

Rhiannon Stephens, Associate Professor of History

Kathryn C.M. Tabb,  Assistant Professor of Philosophy