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Seminar 4: Medical Rhetoric in the Archives

Seminar Leaders: Jordynn Jackand Robin E. Jensen

Seminar Leaders:

Jordynn Jackand Robin E. Jensen

This seminar will focus on archival methods within the burgeoning subfield of health and medical rhetoric. Scholars in this area explore the ways in which rhetoric constructs health, illness, treatment, and care, and they comb historical and contemporary archives to unearth the discursive traces of that process. Their research is as likely to lead them into the chilly rooms of a medical school’s special collections as it is to the homepage of the U.S. National Library of Medicine to access its digital archives. Scholars of medical rhetoric must garner the tools of rhetorical analysis and archival methodology to grapple with concepts related to medicalization, self-help, alternative therapy, and more, concepts that in many cases demand unique considerations related to ethics and access. This seminar is designed to prepare participants for this type of engagement with health-and-medicine-related archival materials. More specifically, seminar participants and leaders will discuss different approaches to engaging archival and/or historical artifacts about health and medicine, challenges and tactics they have developed in their own research, and examples of scholarly work that employs archival material effectively in the context of rhetorics of health and medicine. Each day will include discussions of assigned readings that are grounded in archival research, hands-on work with archival materials, and examination of participants’ own research projects. We will travel, as a group, to the National Museum of Health and Medicine, located in Silver Spring, to meet with archivists and explore the vast collections held there. Readings will include selections from: 

    • Jordynn Jack, Autism and Gender
    • Robin E. Jensen, Infertility
    • Janelle Johnson, American Lobotomy
    • Lisa Meloncon and J. Blake Scott, Methodologies for the Rhetoric of Health and Medicine
    • Nathan Stormer, Signs of Pathology

Participants will submit a research project in April that will be matched to a small group with similar research interests. Groups will exchange ideas and feedback and work through assigned activities to help them move their projects forward--whether that is a dissertation or book chapter, an article project, book proposal, grant proposal, etc. 

Questions should be directed to Jordynn Jack,, and Robin Jensen,

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