Begin with a Text: Teaching the Poetics of Medicine

Catherine Belling*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


This paper suggests that the purpose of humanities teaching within medical education should be primarily to teach and promote the informed, attentive, critical, and precise reading of the multiple texts that constitute medicine as a discursive field-in short, a poetics of medicine. This claim is illustrated by reconsidering Margaret Edson's play Wit, not as it is often used in medical education, as a cautionary tale about unprofessional behavior or as a way to inculcate "humanistic skills," but as an analysis of the relationships between texts and feelings-or cognition and emotion, or science and art. This reading is illustrated by comparing the poetics of Wit with those of two other texts representing ovarian cancer: a scientific paper in Oncology and a clinical case conference in JAMA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-491
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Medical Humanities
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2013


  • Medical education
  • Medical humanities
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Poetics
  • Textual analysis
  • Wit (Margaret Edson)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy


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