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April 08 , 2009

Illness and Image

Case Studies in the Medical Humanities


The humanities in higher education are too often labeled as impractical and are not usually valued in today’s marketplace. Yet in professional fields, such as the health sciences, interest in what the humanities can offer has increased. Advocates claim the humanities offer health care professionals greater insight into how to work with those who need their help.

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Illness and Image introduces undergraduates and professionals to the medical humanities, using a series of case studies, beginning with debates about male circumcision from the ancient world to the present, to the meanings of authenticity in the face transplantation arena. The case studies address the interpretation of mental illness as a disability and the “new” category of mental illness, “self-harm.” Sander L. Gilman shows how medicine projects such categories’ existence into the historical past to show that they are not bound in time and space and, therefore, are “real.”

Illness and Image provides students and researchers with models and possible questions regarding categories often assumed to be either trans-historical or objective, making it useful as a textbook.

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