Teaching Women in Literature with Medical Life Writing: A Critical Reflection, Krista Roberts
I discuss my design of a section of English 160: Introduction to Studies in Women’s Writing as “Women Medical Writers/Writing Women’s Medicine.” In designing this course, I develop a posthuman feminist pedagogy by building upon Karin Murris’s posthuman child in order to reimagine what characterizes an active student. This reimagining allows me to develop a course that introduces students both to the troubles and contradictions within our very own western medical culture and to the scholarly practice of critical intersectionality as a research strategy. My course design brings students to bear the bad news of western medicine’s oppressive histories, which are our own oppressive histories, while asking students to locate themselves within this context, particularly by challenging what it means to be an individual. This course is of particular interest to life writing pedagogies and life writing courses as I use archival materials in the classroom. Furthermore, the assignments students complete have them pursue archival research on their own in order to argue for/against a particular subject’s significance to the history of medicine. By practicing such research and argumentation, students may convert the academic skill of argumentation into the social justice skill of advocacy.
Krista E. Roberts is a PhD Candidate at Illinois State University. Her dissertation, “Material Witnesses: Deconstructing Nonhuman and Human Networks of Credibility and Objectivity in Medical Narratives from Mary Toft to the Contraceptive Pill,” is a contribution to posthuman life writing studies as she negotiates recovery of nonhuman medical testimonies while troubling medical authority.
Teaching life reading and life writing through archives, Emma Maguire
Physical and digital archives are rich pedagogical sites for students of life writing. In a 12-week subject on Creative Nonfiction I want to look critically at archives in a way that encourages critical ethical discussion about archives even as we use them to learn both critical reading and creative practice. This paper will outline the strategy I propose to use (including course structure and assessment design) and will consider how to teach students to critically read archival documents as life narrative texts, develop the critical and technical skills to navigate archives, and write their own auto/biographical piece of writing.
Emma Maguire is a Lecturer in English and Writing at James Cook University. She researches girlhood, gender, and digital life narrative. She tweets at @emma_tsv
Teaching the AIDS Archive through the Activist Life of a Comix Artist, Janine Utell
This paper will provide a model for teaching the AIDS archive through the activist life and autobiographical art of gay comix creator Howard Cruse (1944–2019). Cruse was inaugural editor of the groundbreaking Gay Comix (1980 1984), and creator of Wendel, which ran in the Advocate (1983–1989), and Stuck Rubber Baby (1995). Much of his work from 1984 to the mid-90s comprises autobiographically inflected responses to the AIDS pandemic. Through examining his comix art as queer autography alongside his life of activism in the LGBTQ movement, students gain insight into the history of AIDS and the queer archive.
Janine Utell is Homer C. Nearing, Jr. Distinguished Professor in English at Widener University. She is the author of Literary Couples and 20th-Century Life Writing and the editor of The Comics of Alison Bechdel. She is working on a biography of Howard Cruse.