2021 – Spring

Journalism Ideas & Practice: Pandemics and Plagues

Course Number: JOUR-UA 25, section 1

Day & Time: Mon | 11:00 AM – 12:15 PM

Location: Online

Instructor: Patrick Deer (English), Trace Jordan (Core Curriculum) and Perri Klass (Journalism and Pediatrics)

Prerequisite: none

Two credits.

How have writers, scientists, artists, philosophers, musicians, performers and playwrights, and citizens responded to the outbreak of disease across the centuries and around the world? What kinds of stories, narratives and archives have shaped artistic, medical and governmental responses and popular memory? This course will provide students with the opportunity to engage with humanistic inquiry into health, disease, and medicine at a time when they are personally experiencing a global pandemic. This course will also bring together researchers from various fields to present and discuss their work, including the diverse perspectives of medical practitioners, frontline healthcare workers, philosophers and ethicists, journalists, writers, artists and performers, and scholars engaging with the field of Medical Humanities. Our case studies will include: the bubonic plague and the Renaissance; forgotten diseases and childhood mortality; the 1918 “Spanish” Flu, war and modern culture; HIV/AIDS, performance and protest in New York City; SARS, Ebola and globalization; and healthcare workers and the global Covid pandemic. This course will engage a rich array of materials and approaches by focusing on themes like plagues in literature, racialized and gendered responses to pandemics, war and pandemics, trauma and recovery, the media reporting of pandemics, historical plagues, film and visual representations, philosophy and ethics, front line stories, archives and memory. Readings may include: Edgar Allan Poe; WWI writing by Wilfrid Owen, Vera Brittain, and Ernest Hemingway; Katherine Anne Porter’s Pale Horse, Pale Rider; Albert Camus’ The Plague; activist plays such as The Normal Heart by Larry Kramer and Angels in America by Tony Kushner; Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Blue Flower; and essays by Susan Sontag and Atul Gawande. We will also compare these literary accounts of pandemics to the depiction of disease outbreaks in films like Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys, and Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion.

Notes: Can count as an elective towards the journalism major when coupled with a second 2-credit journalism elective. Does not count toward either journalism minor.