Profile of a FWIS: The Human Experience

FWIS 163, Medical Humanities: Literature, Medicine, and the Practice of Empathy

An Interview with Burke Nixon, Instructor

What do you think is interesting/distinctive about this FWIS course?
In this FWIS, we get to focus on the interesting overlap between the humanities (literature, art, philosophy, etc.) and the practice of medicine, and how the former might be able to aid the latter. We look particularly at the role literary fiction might be able to play in medical education, which leads to a pretty distinctive mix of texts, from articles in scientific journals studying the effect literature has on empathy to crazy short stories by writers like Donald Barthelme and George Saunders. 

What, specifically, are you excited about teaching in your FWIS this semester?
I’m most excited about discussing the medical-themed short stories we read during one unit of the course. Each time I’ve taught this unit, my students have always interpreted these stories in really surprising and often opposing ways. Hearing them discuss these stories (and compare them to their own real-life experiences and observations) complicates and deepens my understanding of the course’s central questions: What are a doctor’s obligations to his or her patient? How is illness more than physical symptoms? What does it mean for anyone to empathize with another person? 

What is one thing you hope students draw from this FWIS?
One thing I hope they draw from this course is the idea that academic life is about argument and debate, in a good way. Throughout the semester, students in this FWIS are free to completely reject the idea that the humanities should be a part of medical education. That’s part of the fun: to scrutinize the ideas we encounter (or come up with ourselves) and the evidence that supports them.

FWIS 169, What are Human Rights?

An Interview with Lora Wildenthal, Instructor

What do you think is interesting/distinctive about this FWIS course?
FWIS 169 "What are Human Rights?" is a history course, but it is very focused on current events.

How did you get interested in this particular topic?
Human rights are ever-changing and ever-controversial.  In the context of my own research, they can be viewed as the anticolonial riposte to colonialism, and as a continuation of colonialism.  

What, specifically, are you excited about teaching in your FWIS this semester?
Meeting the students who are drawn to this vast topic.

What is one thing you hope students draw from this FWIS?
I hope they see the daily paper in a whole new way.

What advice do you have for first-year students (about FWIS or their first semester in general)?
Please don't sign up for more than 15 or 16 credits!  You've got to have time to read and sleep!

FWIS 194, Americans Abroad: Travel and American Literature

An Interview with AnaMaria Seglie, Instructor

How did you get interested in this particular topic?
I love to travel! I studied abroad twice in college. My approach to American literature (and life) has been vastly influenced by these experiences. My hope with this course is that we as a class will tease out why travel brings to light so many different aspects of ourselves. 

What, specifically, are you excited about teaching in your FWIS this semester?
I am excited to teach Raiders of the Lost Ark from the Indiana Jones series. There are numerous travel movies out there, but this cult classic inspires some great questions about travel and adventure. After all, who doesn't want to watch Harrison Ford save the day?  

What is one thing you hope students draw from this FWIS?
I hope my students learn that writing itself is a journey that occurs both within and beyond the classroom. Writing is perhaps our most fundamental form of thinking, and, just like thinking, writing too evolves.