Literature, Medicine, Medical Humanities

Allegory Malaprop, Apothecary and Medical Cabinets

Thomas Lawrence Long’s site Literature, Medicine, Medical Humanities is as old as MLA Commons, with its first post dating from December 2012. Over two hundred posts later, the site is still going strong. An early adopter of the Commons, Thomas immediately saw the platform’s potential in helping him gauge interest—and build a network—in the nascent field of medical humanities. In fact, interest turned out to be so great that the site spawned a group and then an MLA forum, approved in October 2014, the proposal for which was developed on the Commons. Here, Thomas talks to us about the medical humanities, blogging, and using MLA Commons to change how we collaborate and disseminate and exchange information.

What is the medical humanities anyway?
Health and illness are more than biomedical phenomena; they are also social and cultural phenomena. Medical humanities is an umbrella term for the analysis of the ways that health, illness, and the health professions are represented in literature and culture. In addition, many of us in the field are appointed to schools of medicine or nursing where we bring the insights of the humanities to the preparation of health professionals.

Any advice for emerging scholars and graduate students interested in the medical humanities?
Read my essay on the subject in Inside Higher Ed!

When and why did you start blogging?
My introduction to the World Wide Web occurred in 1996 in an advanced technical communication course taught by D. Diane Davis (now at the University of Texas, Austin), where I learned how to use HTML. Later, I created a personal blog. In 2008, when I took the faculty position in the School of Nursing at UConn, I created as a resource for nurses (clinical and academic). The open-access site on MLA Commons serves a similar function. Response has been positive, though I would like digital metrics to be able to determine the number of visitors, where they’re from, and what search terms they’re using. I can foresee that we might use these metrics to guide our research agendas.

How is the Literature, Medicine, Medical Humanities site connected to the group (now the forum)?
Early on, I connected the site (open access) to the group (open to MLA members who have created MLA Commons profiles). The site is passive: I post calls for submissions and other information. The group should enable interactive collaboration on projects: coauthored articles, coedited books, the business of the forum, presubmission peer review of manuscripts.

Any advice for MLA members thinking about starting a site on MLA Commons?
Ask yourself, What do my colleagues and I need to do that we can’t do through old-school means? What niche needs an information resource or professional network tool? What project needs a means of dissemination and collaboration? We still have a lot to learn about using MLA Commons for intellectual exchange and scholarly collaboration. We are still bound to e-mail and electronic discussion lists.

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