Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Humanistic Auscultations of Medical Literature

Dr. Robert J. Bonk.

Medical literature typically conjures images of patients’ hospital charts or laboratory files, rather than literary works by such writers as Anton Chekhov, Richard Selzer, William Carlos Williams, and others. This circumscribed view of medical literature typically stems from a technological paradigm of medicine as strictly scientific—certainly not humanistic. By widening our focus of medicine to include the humanities, however, we can strengthen the humanistic perspective so needed in today’s technological world of medicine. In short, we can listen to the humanistic auscultations of medical literature.
Within the field of medicine, an auscultation is a reflection or echo of the inner workings of the body through an external tool, such as a stethoscope. That indeed is a main purpose of not only literature, but also the other humanities: to reflect and sometimes fragment the inner workings of subjects, thereby revealing subtleties in creatively new manners. Medical literature, just as any genre, seeks to reveal such creatively new interpretations—particularly regarding life, health, illness, and death. Exploring medical literature can therefore reveal connections between the scientific and humanistic aspects of medicine. Hence, this paper and presentation will use representative excerpts of medical literature to hear these humanistic auscultations.


Dr. Robert J. Bonk  (United States)
Assistant Professor of Professional Writing
Humanities Division College of Arts and Sciences
Widener University

Robert J. Bonk is an assistant professor of professional writing at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania. With an educational background that bridges the sciences and communication, his interests focus on the interplay of science, especially medicine, with literature and writing. His first book was honored by Doody’s Rating Service as one “250 Best Health Sciences Books” for 1999.

  • Literature and Medicine
  • Medicine and the Humanities
  • Medical Literature

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)