Editor’s note: This is the third student reflection about a course taught in the Spring of 2018. For more information about the course see the introductory post from this series by the course’s instructor, Dr. Chris Eagle from The Center for the Study of Human Health.
Health 385W: Writing Bodies is the kind of class that every college student should take at least once. The topics covered in class and the readings were not only phenomenal but chosen in a way that cultivated a lively conversation in every class about what it means to embody illness in writing.As for the reading list for the class, it was refreshing to read such a wide range of different authors and types of short stories and getting to see how they all relate illness narratives. It was wonderful reading authors like Flannery O’ Connor, Denis Johnson, Ernest Hemingway, Alice Munro, and Franz Kafka and being able to question and discuss all of the techniques incorporated in every story. Reading these great authors showed me, as a writer and a reader, that embodiment can be present in many different and odd ways. For example, I’d read Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” a couple of times before, but when reading it for this class it felt like a completely different story. This time around, it felt so obvious that poor Gregor’s condition is a metaphor for sudden disability.
Above all, I would say, this class taught me to be a good reader and what it means to truly notice details. A few months ago, I wouldn’t have believed that I’d be reading well enough to remember the color of a character’s blouse in the scene when she was visiting her husband in a nursing facility. I’ve found that the level of detail that I read for now is also for the sake of appreciating the writing and getting the full experience of the story- and I think this is the case for many of the students in this class. By mid-semester the conversations with my classmates about the stories we’d read were just as lively outside of class time as during.
It’s classes like this, ones that push you to be better people and listeners and readers and writers, that leave a lasting impression.
To say that this class taught me to be a better writer would be simplifying the feat that was accomplished by Professor Chris Eagle. Doing proper justice to the embodiment of an illness is a heavy duty but one that I was given all the tools to take on when working in this class. I learned that everything written must be a conscious choice by the writer and Dr. Eagle helped us see how each short story applies the techniques necessary to embody an illness. This class also helped me find the confidence to take creative license and write about things outside of my comfort zone.
This course taught me not only how to write about the body but also how to be a better student. It’s classes like this, ones that push you to be better people and listeners and readers and writers, that leave a lasting impression. I leave this class having learned as much about myself as I have about embodiment.