Wednesdays 6-8 (UAMS students),
6-8:40 (UALR students)
Medical Humanities Conference Room
Freeway Medical Building, 5th floor
Laura Ackerman Smoller, Ph.D.
Office hours: Wednesday, 3-4, Friday, 2:30-3:30, and by appointment
Office: Stabler Hall (UALR) 604K
Week 1. August 23. Introduction: Ways of
thinking about disease and society.
Week 2. August 30. Disease as an agent of
William McNeill, Plagues and Peoples (New York, 1975), pp. 1-13,
Barbara Alice Mann, The Tainted Gift: The Disease Method of Frontier
Expansion (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger/ABC Clio, 2009), chapter 2 (“‘The
Land of Death’: The Choctaw Removal into Cholera, 1832”), pp. 19-41.
Lecture: A history of
histories of disease.
Week 3. September 6. Labor Day holiday.
Week 4. September 13. The "social
construction" of disease.
Elaine Showalter, Hystories: Hysterical Epidemics and Modern Culture
(New York, 1997), chapter 9 (“Gulf War Syndrome”), pp. 133-43;
Burkhard Bilger, "Letter from Kentucky: Squirrel and Man," The New
Yorker (July 17, 2000): 58-67.
Lecture: Disease and
Week 5. September 20. Different cultures,
different understandings of disease.
Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child,
Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures (New York: The
Noonday Press, 1997), pp. vii-ix, 1-11, 20-23, 38-49, 140-53, 171-80, 250-61
Lecture: Disease and
medicine in the ancient world.
Week 6. September 27. The Hippocratic
understanding of disease.
Hippocrates, Epidemics, book 1: 1-3, in J. Chadwick and W. N. Mann,
trans., Hippocratic Writings, pp. 87-89; Hippocrates, The Sacred Disease, ibid., pp. 237-51;
"Cures of Apollo and Asclepius," in Georg Luck, ed. and trans., Arcana
Mundi: Magic and the Occult in the Greek and Roman Worlds (Baltimore
and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985), pp. 142-45.
Lecture: The medieval
view of disease.
Week 7. October 4. Leprosy in the medieval
R. I. Moore, The Formation of a Persecuting Society (Oxford, 1987),
pp. 45-65, 73-80;
Ritual of Separation of a Leper, from the Old Sarum Rite;
Carole Rawcliffe, Leprosy in Medieval England (Woodbridge, UK:
Boydell, 2006), pp. 13-29, 39-43 (optional: 302-14, 343).
Lecture: The experience
Week 8. October 11. Plague in early modern
Carlo Cipolla, Faith, Reason, and the Plague in Seventeenth-Century
Tuscany (New York, 1979), pp. 1-85 (small pages and a fast read!).
Lecture: The emergence
of the "French pox."
Week 9. October 18. Syphilis in early modern
Anna Foa, "The New and the Old: The Spread of Syphilis (1494-1530)," trans.
Carole C. Gallucci, in Edward Muir and Guido Ruggiero, eds., Sex and
Gender in Historical Perspective. Selections from Quaderni Storici(Baltimore, 1990), pp. 26-45;
Eugenia Tognotti, “The
Rise and Fall of Syphilis in Renaissance Europe,” Journal of Medical
Humanities 30 (2009): 99-113.
medicine, and society in early modern Europe.
10. October 25. The fashionable disease of gout.
Roy Porter, "Gout, Framing and Fantasizing Disease," Bulletin of the
History of Medicine 68 (1994): 1-28.
Lecture: The cholera epidemics of the
11. November 1. Cholera.
Richard J. Evans, "Epidemics and Revolutions: Cholera in Nineteenth-Century
Europe," in Terrence Ranger and Paul Slack, eds., Epidemics and Ideas:
Essays on the Historical Perception of Pestilence (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1992), pp. 149-73;
Christopher Hamlin, Cholera: The Biography (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2009), “Prologue: Home Alone,” pp. 1-18.
Lecture: The progressive
era and the science of eugenics
12. November 8. "Degeneracy," "defectives," euthanasia, and eugenics.
Martin S. Pernick, The Black Stork: Eugenics and the Death of
"Defective" Babies in American Medicine and Motion Pictures since 1915
(New York and Oxford, 1996), pp. 1-18, 81-99.
Lecture: Feminism, the "new woman," and gender anxiety in the late 19th
13. November 15. Technology and disease: hysteria and bed-wetting.
Rachel P. Maines, The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator,
and Women's Sexual Satisfaction (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University
Press, 1999), ch. 1, pp. 1-20 (optional pp. 67-110);
Deborah Blythe Doroshow, “An Alarming Solution: Bedwetting, Medicine, and
Behavioral Conditioning in Mid-Twentieth-Century America,” Isis 101
Lecture: The emergence of AIDS.
Week 14. November 22. Venereal diseases in
Allan M. Brandt, "The Syphilis Epidemic and Its Relation to AIDS,"
Science 239 (1988): 375-80;
Upton Sinclair and Eugene Brieux, Damaged Goods (1913), pp. 10-19,
26-29, 40-41 (entire text on-line at:
Paul Monette, Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir (San Diego, New York,
and London, 1988), pp. 1-26.
Lecture: The coming
Week 15. November 29. Emerging threats?
Laurie Garrett, "The Next Pandemic?" Foreign Affairs 84 (July/August
2005): 3ff (printout from Academic Search Premier);
Vian Azzu, "Swine Flu: How Experts Are Preparing Their Families," New
Scientist (August 12, 2009);
Jill Lepore, "It's Spreading: Outbreaks, Media Scares, and the Parrot Panic
of 1930," The New Yorker (June 1, 2009): 46-50.
Week 16. December 6. Disease in the media.
reading! Dinner and a movie, followed by a discussion of the portrayal of
disease in the film.
Course requirements for UAMS seniors:
Attendance at all
weekly discussions. (Please make alternative arrangements with me if
you will be on an away rotation or at a residency interview.)
Completion of all
reading assignments. All readings will be distributed in class.
Please make arrangements to pick up a copy of the reading if you must
miss a class.
A 1 to 2-page reading
response, to be handed in on the Monday each reading assignment is
discussed. I will grade these responses on a 10-point scale. I am
looking for: 1) a brief summary of the reading(s); 2) some
critique of the reading, a comparison with another reading or a current
situation, and/or some question(s) for discussion that arises from the
reading (e.g., "I think McNeill overstates the case for disease's role
in history because . . . ." or "The experiences of leprosy and plague
seem very similar in that . . . ." or "Do you think leprosaria would
work for AIDS patients?"); and 3) specific quotations or examples
from the readings. An adequate summary will result in a score of 7
points; adding elements 2) and 3) will result in scores of 8, 9, and
10. Late papers will be penalized one point (out of ten) for every
calendar day late. I do not accept emailed papers except by prior
arrangement and only in the most extenuating of circumstances.
Grades for UAMS students will be computed as
Grades are computed on the following scale:
In case of some mix-up, it is a good idea to
save all returned work until you receive your grade at the end of the
Student learning objectives for upper-level
courses in history:
Demonstrate a significant degree of knowledge about both United States and
World history through completion of a broad selection of courses in history.
2. Ask appropriate historical questions that demonstrate an understanding
of the discipline of history and distinguish it from those of other
3. Distinguish between primary sources and secondary sources used in the
writing of history and know how to use and analyze each appropriately.
Students will thus be able to:
a. Analyze a primary source as a product of a particular historical
b. Respond critically to a secondary source, taking into account the
primary sources used by the historian, the historian’s methodology, the
logic of the argument, and other major interpretations in the field.
4. Present historical analysis and arguments in a clear written form,
including the ability to construct an argument by marshalling evidence in an
appropriate and logical fashion.
5. Write a research paper that asks a significant historical question,
answers it with a clear thesis and a logical argument, supports it with both
primary and secondary sources documented according to the standards of the
Chicago Manual of Style, and is written in clear and artful prose with the
grammar and spelling associated with formal composition.
Students with disabilities:
It is the policy and practice of the University of Arkansas at Little Rockto create inclusive learning environments. If there are aspects of
the instruction or design of this course that result in barriers to your
inclusion or to accurate assessment of achievement--such as time-limited
exams, inaccessible web content, or the use of non-captioned videos--please
notify the instructor as soon as possible. Students are also welcome to
contact the Disability Resource Center, telephone 501-569-3143 (v/tty). For
more information, visit the DRC website at
Classroom etiquette: Please turn off cell phones and beepers before
entering the classroom or set them to a silent alert; do not read or send
text messages in class. In the rare event you must enter late or leave
class early, please let me know in advance.
Cheating and plagiarism:
Cheating and plagiarism are serious offenses and will be treated as such.
("Plagiarism" means "to adopt and reproduce as one's own, to appropriate to
one's use, and incorporate in one's own work without acknowledgment the
ideas of others or passages from their writings and works." See Section VI,
Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Behavior, Student Handbook, p.
39. Copying directly from the textbook or an encyclopedia article without
quotation marks or an identifying citation, for example, constitutes
plagiarism.) Anyone who engages in such activities will receive a failing
grade in the course and will be turned over to the Academic Integrity and
Grievance Committee for University disciplinary action, which may include
separation from the University.