Courses / Spring 2020

Spring 2020

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    Course Number: R1B Section 3 | CCN: 19910

    Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Medicine, Museums, and the Art of Observation

    Eva Allan

    Monday, Wednesday: 11:00-12:30pm

    Increasingly over the past 20 years, medical schools have started to partner with local museums in order to integrate art observation courses into their curricula. The visual tools of art history—observation and questioning; careful, critical looking; and noticing details in relation to the whole—have been shown to improve diagnostic skills. Moreover, recent studies demonstrate that art observation can increase empathy, combat burn out, and confront implicit bias, helping clinicians become more comfortable with ambiguity and improving communication.

    This class will work to define the place of art historical scholarship within the medical humanities. The course will begin with an introduction to the current “state of the field” and will cover the arguments for including art historical skills in the practice of medicine. We will explore three overarching themes: improving diagnosis; enhancing empathy and communication; and reducing bias in medical care. We will read and analyze articles from both medical and art historical journals. The selections from art historical scholarship focus on different ways of seeing, both historical and contemporary. They offer a variety of writing styles for student analysis and emulation, and we will discuss how the authors use visual analysis in building their arguments. Through discussion, group work, and small assignments, we will create visual observation workshops to improve medical pedagogy. Some classes will be held at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, using their collections and current exhibitions to develop our descriptive skills and to ask what types of artwork elicit the most productive discussions towards improving health care.

                 As this is the second course in the reading and composition series, students will practice translating their careful observations into well-crafted arguments. There will be small writing assignments every week. At least one writing assignment will require individual visits to a local museum such as the BAMPFA or the de Young Museum. Students will conclude the course by writing a ten to twelve page paper–based on research and visual analysis–on a work of art in a local collection.

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