Monday, 16.45-18.00 F201


Medicine, the figure of the physician and, by extension, the status of the human body, have always been prone to extensive symbolization in art, science, philosophy and politics. The purpose of this course is to offer an overview of the multi-faceted and complex relation medicine and visuality have had over their interrelated history.


To better situate the nexus between visuality, technology, philosophy, and medical practice proper, we must remind ourselves that medicine itself never existed as a pure or homogenous discipline. Nor did it develop within a vacuum. In an ironical turn of phrase, we could say that medicine has always been much more than just medicine: the body of knowledge (that is, episteme, skill, technology and practice) produced and circulated in the medical arts is more than just the sum of biomedicine and the corollary sciences. In addition, medicine has always been sitting between art, science and philosophy. It has always been subject to continuous re-appropriation by cultural, political, economic, and most recently, media discourses, and in return, has always impacted (channeled, subverted, supplemented) these contexts. One might say that the complexity of human history could be re-written just by looking at the history of medicine: the developments in science, philosophy, art and technology, changes in the structure of society as well as in the ways political power negotiated and exerted itself, have always been co-extensive and co-evolutive with developments in medicine. This, of course, is not to suggest that medicine would be an all-encompassing master narrative. What the above considerations attest to is the exact opposite; that the ‘centrality’ of western medicine is always-already posited against the technical and epistemological dimensions of the culture within which it unfolds.


To that end, this course will investigate the media-iconographies of medicine, encapsulating those elements of subversion and transgression that have been inherent to the practice of medicine since its earliest conceptualizations. We are interested in the paradoxes, debates, hopes and fears, anxieties and fascinations that characterized the history and development of the medical profession.



Framing the Field

1.   What is Medicine? [techne vs episteme; producing doctors and patients in the medical apparatus; illness vs disease]

2.    Medical Field(s) of Visuality [from Galen’s nosology to Vesalius’ ‘Fabrica’ to Grey’s Anatomy]

3.    Primum Non Nocere [the human touch in medicine]

4.    Symptom-Diagnosis-Therapy [technology vs technique]


Medicine and Media

6.    Medical Dramas

7.    Medical Educational Videos Online

8.    Mental Health and Caring [from Lombroso to Mental Hygiene]

9.    Quantified Life [Self-Tracking, Health Apps and the Digitization of Health (Systems)]

10.  Healing Animals

11.  Future(s) of Health and Medicine in the Anthropocene

12.  Conclusions


Course requirements:

Active participation in class discussion (30%)

Short Assignment (30%)

Case Study (40%)


Suggested Readings: DROPBOX

—  Baron, J.: ‘Do No Harm’ in Codes of Conduct: Behavioral Research into Business Ethics. ed D.M. Messick & A.E. Tenbrunsel. New York: Russale Sage Foundation, 1996, 197-213.

—  Banner, S. The Death Penalty: An American History. Harvard UP, 2003.

—  Baudrillard, J.: Symbolic Exchange and Death. London: Sage, 1993 [1976].

—  Derrida, J: ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’ in Dissemination. Continuum, 2004 [1972], 67-186.

—  Foucault, M.: The Birth of the Clinic. Routledge, 2003 [1963].

—  Grierson, J.: Grierson on Documentary. U. of California Press, 1966.

—  Klaver, Elizabeth: Sites of Autopsy in Contemporary Culture. State University of New York Press 2005.

— Medical Humanities Companion: Volume One Symptom. Eds. Martin Evans-Rolf Ahlzen-Iona Heath-Jane Macnaughton. Radcliffe, 2008.

—  Medicine, Health and the Arts: Approaches to the Medical Humanities. Eds. Victoria Bates, Alan Bleakley, Sam Goodman. Routledge, 2014.

—  Ostherr, K.: Medical Visions: Producing the Patient through Film, Television, and Imaging Technologies. OUP, 2013.

—  Palatinus, L.D.: ‘Bad Medicine: On Why Medical TV Does (Not) Matter’. Critical Studies on Television Online (October, 2014),

—  Palatinus, L.D.: ”Primum Non Nocere – Autopsy, Bad Medicine, and the Body in the 18th and 19th Centuries” in From the Sublime to City Crime. Eds. Stephen Knight and Maurizio Ascari. Montecarlo: Liberfaber, 2014.

—  Palatinus, L.D.: ‘”The Return of the Surgeon: Medical Nostalgia and Social Pathology in The Knick”. Critical Studies in Television Online  (November): <> 2015.

—  Palatinus, L.D.:“Being Critical about 'Critical' - TV that just didn't get it right...” Critical Studies in Television Online (April): <> 2015.

—  Quick, Brian L.: ‘The Effects of Viewing Grey's Anatomy on Perceptions of Doctors and Patient Satisfaction’. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media. 2009, Vol 53 Issue 1, 38-55.

—  Sadegh-Zadeh,: Handbook of Analytical Philosophy of Medicine. Springer, 2012.

—  Smith, Cedric M.: ‘Origin and Uses of Primum Non Nocere – Above All, Do No Harm!’ Journal Of Clinical Pharmacology, 2005, Vol 45 Issue 4, 371-377.

—  Turow, J.: Playing Doctor: Television, Storytelling, and Medical Power (New Expanded Edition). U. of Michigan Press, 2013.