How to Use This Book
We have developed this open access book for universities and colleges responding to the needs and interests of students preparing for careers in health or even seeking to add a “health track” to their majors or minors. Para vivir offers an introduction to reading different literary and cultural texts from the Spanish-speaking world with a thematic focus on health. It can be used as an alternative to the standard Introduction to Hispanic Literature course texts, as it also teaches techniques of close reading. It incorporates authors from seventeen counties, has an almost even representation of male and female authors and diverse communities in the Hispanic world (European, Creole, Afro Hispanic, Latinx, Indigenous, Jewish). In addition to introductions to reading different genres (narrative, poetry, theater, and film) we have scaffolded supporting material such as biographies, notes on the historical contexts, pre and post-reading questions.
While we have included primary source material when possible, due to copyright restrictions we have not been able to include some of the contemporary texts/sources. In these cases we encourage instructors to look for these online (when possible, we have indicated where they might be available) or to supplement this webbook with a packet or materials on your learning support system (such as Blackboard or Canvas). Instructors can also select which chapters to include in a class and may do so in terms of what is available at their libraries.
The book begins with presentations of genres in the first section. The second section opens with a chapter about the health humanities, followed by texts and films that are connected thematically. You might choose to set up your syllabus along these same lines, including all or some of the material; another possibility would be to organize the readings by genre or region or to group them historically and refer to the genre information as it is pertinent. While all the texts can be linked in some ways to health and illness, it is important to not only think of these thematically but to consistently examine how our different frames of reference provided by our disciplinary trainings may encourage us to read in a particular way. For example, medical histories or charts are also genres that structure and limit what physicians record and, perhaps, what they see.
In the subtitle, “leyendo la salud y la literatura,” we invite students to think about lived experience as a text that needs deciphering, just as do written or performed texts. Health, healing, illness, and death—all concepts and practices related to health—are formed within language and culture. Their meanings are not transparent. We believe that learning to read texts closely also helps us to read and interpret more effectively the spoken word, the words of patients and neighbors and loved-ones, and the health-related practices in which we all engage.
By centering on the practice of reading, the importance of how language is used and the silences that subtend someone’s experiences of their bodies we may “learn to be affected by literature,” and to ask “what is this work forcing me to notice?”. In her study on how we read, Louise Rosenblatt contrasts “efferent” with “aesthetic” readings. These are terms that she defines with regard to focus. An aesthetic reading concentrates on the quality and the structure of what happens during the reading event. An efferent reading centers on what will remain after reading: the information, solution, or application of ideas. Students who are interested in the medical fields bring tools from their own experiences and perspectives; perhaps adding epidemiological concepts such as the “counterfactual” to the discussion of a story by Cortázar or their knowledge of cultural, spiritual, or non-Western approaches to representations of health or the end of life. Incorporating diverse perspectives will increase mutual understanding in diverse cultural settings, times, and disciplines. Our pre and post-reading exercises are designed to help students think through issues and ideas raised by the works and these may also be supplemented by reflective analytic exercises or affective responses that take into account the interplay between these different perspectives.
These are the films we include and among which you might select as they are available or appropriate:
- Casas de fuego, Dir. Juan Bautista Stagnaro, Argentina, 1995. (available on Youtube): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A6yWNBytu3U
- XXY, Dir. Lucía Puenzo, Lucía, 2007.
- La teta asustada, Dir. Claudia Llosa, España, 2009.
- Gaby: Una historia verdadera. Dir. Luis Mandoki, USA, 1987. (available on Youtube): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTEJceVC8hw
- Mar adentro, Dir. Alejandro Almenábar, España, 2004.
- El hijo de la novia, Dir. Juan José Campanella, Argentina, 2001.
These are the primary texts not available online or included in our text (in the order in which they appear):
- Ana María Matute, “Pecado de omission.” Can be found in Repase y Escriba: Curso avanzado de gramática y composición, María C. Dominicis. Wiley, 2014.
- Rafael Campo, “My Patient’s Heart Attack” and “Distant Moon” I-IV from The Other Man Was Me: A Voyage to the New World. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1994.
- Rigoberta Menchú, “Ceremonias de nacimiento” Elizabeth Burgos, Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú y así me nació la conciencia. Mexico: Siglo Veintiuno Editors, 1985. Selections from second chapter, pp, 27-41.
- Tomás Rivera, selection from Y no se lo tragó la tierra. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1996, pp. 42-50.
- Osvaldo Dragún,“Historia de un flemón, una mujer y dos hombres” from Historias para ser contadas. Girol, 1982.
- Gloria Anzaldúa, “Sus plumas el viento.” From Borderlands/La frontera. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1987, p. 138.
- Mastretta Ángeles. Arráncame La Vida. Alfaguara, 2002. Capítulo 4.
- Juan Guillermo Rúa, “Vida y muerte en el litoral” in Del Palenque a la escena: antología crítica del teatro afrolatinoamericano. Editoras: Juanamanuela Cordones-Cook, María Mercedes Jaramillo, Bogotá: Universidad Nacional de Colombia, 2012, pp. 219-244.
Bibliography: Health Humanities and Narrative Medicine
We offer you, the instructor, the following bibliography as a starting point to explore relationships between the study of literature and the practice of health professionals.
Boyle, Margaret E., and Sarah E. Owens. Health and Healing in the Early Modern Iberian World: a Gendered Perspective. University of Toronto Press, 2021.
Charon, Rita. Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness. Oxford University Press, 2008.
Charon, Rita. The Principles and Practice of Narrative Medicine. Oxford University Press, 2017.
Crawford, Paul, et al. Health Humanities. Palgrave, 2015.
Crawford, Paul, et al. The Routledge Companion to Health Humanities. Routledge, 2020.
Frank, Arthur W. Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics. 2nd ed. University of Chicago Press, 2013.
Lamb, Erin Gentry, et al. “Baccalaureate Health Humanities Programs in the U.S.” Hiram College, Mar. 2020.
Novillo-Corvalán Patricia. Latin American and Iberian Perspectives on Literature and Medicine. Routledge, 2015.