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Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students
Art and COVID-19: A Health Humanities Perspective
How have artists expressed the impact of the pandemic, and the many existential and social issues it has raised? This course examines the art of COVID-19 using the tools of Health Humanities, a relatively new discipline that connects medicine to the arts and social sciences. Key questions include: How has the history of health inequality, both nationally and globally, impacted different communities, and their art, during the pandemic? How does art shape or express diverse cultural understandings of health and illness, medicine and the body, death and spirituality, in response to crisis? How do such understandings directly impact the physical healing but also the life decisions and emotions of individuals, from caregivers to patients? What are the more powerful media images we have seen of the pandemic, of catastrophe or heroic battle? And what are images that have been hidden from us, such as those of dying patients and unbearable grief, which have been largely censored? How do such media choices deeply affect our sense of ourselves as embodied beings, embedded in communities, even as we confront unprecedented events?
Materials for this course include art from different media (from poetry and fiction to performance and installation), produced during COVID-19 in mostly Western contexts, in diverse communities and with some forays into the rest of the world. They also include some non-fiction readings from the disciplines Health Humanities draws from, such as history of medicine, anthropology, psychology, sociology, cultural history, media studies, art criticism, and medicine itself. We will thus be introduced to basics of Health Humanities and its methods while addressing the pandemic as a world-changing event, aided by the unique insights of artists. The course will culminate in final projects that present a critical and contextual appreciation of a specific art project created in response to COVID-19; such appreciations may be creative art projects as well, or more analytical, scholarly evaluations.