HSC 130-09SS Fall 2019

Many students entering the health sciences imagine that disease, illness and sickness are best understood through science; that the Health Sciences are simply the application of more traditional sciences like Chemistry, Biology, and Physics. In this class we will explore how that belief fails to capture most of human health.
Human experiences of illness, suffering, death, and of good health are formed through culture and a complex process of making meaning. We will explore how individuals use culture to make meaning out of their health, their illnesses, their bodies to understand themselves and the world around them.  How people understand these concepts will influence the way they view the practice of medicine, nursing, public health and many other fields. This class will be an opportunity to examine your own views of health and to understand how those views might affect the way you will work in the field.
This course also will give you an introduction to literature, art, film, music and drama that deals with health. These resources can help you in your career to grapple with some of the more challenging experiences you may have providing health care in the future. You should imagine this course as providing you the tools you need for your own care and support as a future member of the greater Health Sciences communities.
Finally, this course will help you to be more empathetic and to understand the different perspectives of the people you will be treating and working with in your career.

Course Information

Course Name and Units: HSC 130 Health Humanities, 3 units

Classroom Location: MI 3115



HSC 130 is an introduction to the role of the humanities in health. Exploration of the importance of humanities in developing empathy, observation, and self-reflection skills necessary in health care. Human experience of illness will be explored

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Characterize human experience of illness, health, and healing individually, socially, and politically through the humanities.
  2. Demonstrate empathy towards others’ experience of illness.
  3. Discuss one’s own values and beliefs in the context of health humanities.
  4. Summarize the role of humanities in defining health and illness and its implications for the relationship between patients and providers.
  5. Show appreciation for the humanities using their intellect, imagination, sensibility, and sensitivity
  6. Develop their affective and cognitive faculties through studying great works reflecting the rich diversity of human imagination and/or inquiry
  7. Engage in critical self-reflection relating themes in the humanities to the students’ own lives
  8. Discuss how changes in the environment, the Anthropocene, and issues related to climate change are explored in the humanities in relation to human health.

Materials you must purchase

Kafka, F., & Corngold, S. (2013). The Metamorphosis (Modern Library Paperback Edition. ed.). New York: Modern Library. ("Kafka")

Lorde, Audra. The Cancer Journals. ("Lorde")

McCarthy, Cormac. The Road. 1st ed. Oprah's Book Club. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. ("McCarthy")

Thomas Cole et al., Medical Humanities: An Introduction. ("Cole")

Available through the CSUEB Library.

Cassel, E J. "The Nature of Suffering and the Goals of Medicine." The New England Journal of Medicine 306, no. 11 (1982): 639-45. - Available on Blackboard

Conrad, Peter. The Medicalization of Society: On the Transformation of Human Conditions into Treatable Disorders. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 2007. ("Conrad")

Jutel, Annemarie. Putting a Name to It: Diagnosis in Contemporary Society. 2011. ("Jutel")

Wojnarowicz, David. Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration. 1991 ("Wojnarowicz")


The following are important course requirements and due dates. The full course calendar is available on Blackboard.

Class Project

Identify your community 02/21/19

Community Summary 10/16/19

Summary of your assigned artist 10/30/19

Final Project, Project Statement 12/2/19 and Finals Week

Personal Narratives 09/23/19

Midterm 10/02/19

Final 12/09/19



Class Project 35%

Personal Narratives 15%

Midterm 20%

Final  30%

Students not turning in all assignments will receive a WU for the course.

Reading and class assignments are posted in detail on the class calendar.

Week 1 - Introduction to the Course

Week 2 and 3 - Defining Health

Week 4 - Goals of Medicine and the Sick Role

Week 5 - Illness Narratives

Week 6 and 7 - Health in the Anthropocene

Week 7 - 11 - Art, AIDS and Communities

Week 12 - Medicalization

Weeks 13 - 14 - Diagnosis

Week 15 - Class Presentations and Final Exams