First Meeting of the New Year Monday 17 Oct. 7 pm

Update: After having surveyed members, the best possible time for us to meet is on Monday, 17 October, at 7 pm in the Teviot Library Bar.

I have received a number of enquiries about the Medicine in Literature Reading Group for the new academic year, as well as a handful of new subscribers. I feel it would be a good time to reconvene the Reading Group, and so I would like to welcome all of our new members and also welcome back our old ones. This will be a slightly long email containing an introduction for new members, some general housekeeping notes, the usual appeal for recommendations and a proposal for the first meeting.

By way of introduction, the Medicine in Literature Reading Group was a spin-off of the Medicine in Literature intercalated programme from a few years ago, started and run jointly by medicine and literature students. The group is open to everyone and is by its very nature interdisciplinary. We have had students from different disciplines attend previously, like art, law and history. The Reading Group should be particularly engaging for people interested in the Medical Humanities or are taking the Medicine in Literature programme (either as an intercalating medicine student or an English literature student).

As for the housekeeping notes, one of the most difficult issues we faced was finding a convenient time and place for our regular meetings. Because a lot of our members are medics whose timetables are unforgiving and who are often scattered across Scotland, it is hard to find a time, place or even date that works for everyone. So over the course of the next few weeks, while we get the Reading Group up and running again, I will be canvassing people for their availability and for suggestions. Ideally, we should find a time that allows for a healthy variety of people to participate in discussions. We can also discuss the frequency at which we would like to meet (like, for example, whether we meet fortnightly or monthly). For now, we can just determine a time and place for our first meeting (see below) and then take it from there.

One further housekeeping matter is determining dates and recommended readings adequately in advance to allow people to plan accordingly. Normally, we determine readings on an ad-hoc basis, usually by rotation amongst members. This allows for more flexibility and diversity. However, it might help if for some of the weeks at least we can plan readings much further ahead (especially if the readings are particularly long).

Also, members are more than welcome (and indeed are urged to) suggest readings and/or themes for future meetings. If there is anything you would like to discuss, feel free to let me know and we can discuss it at a future meeting.

Finally, I would like to propose the following for our first meeting of this academic year:

Because we have a lot of new members, and because there will be a new intake of the Medicine in Literature intercalated programme, I thought it would be a good idea to go back to the basics for the first session. Reading Group veterans will be familiar with this subject already, but it might be worth having a quick refresher. For our first meeting, I would like to suggest ‘Narrative Medicine’ as our theme. Because of how important and influential the subject is, I thought it would be worth going back to the ethical and conceptual debates surrounding narrativity. As there seems to be a fair amount of reading for this meeting, I would recommend meeting in two weeks’ time. You do not have to read everything; read as much as you can get through. I would also advise reading the texts with the following priorities:

1) Charon, Rita. Narrative Medicine. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. (Read chapter 1, then come back to chapters 2 and 3 if you have time).
2) Strawson, Galen. ‘Against Narrativity.’ Ratio 17.4 (Dec. 2004): 428-52.

And read either one or both of:
3) Woods, Angela. ‘The Limits of Narrative: Provocations for the Medical Humanities.’ Medical Humanities 37.2 (Dec. 2011): 73-8.
4) McKechnie, Claire C. ‘Anxieties of Communication: the Limits of Narrative in the Medical Humanities.’ Medical Humanities 40.2 (Dec. 2014): 119-34.

(Note: if you need help finding the materials, please contact me via email.)

I am hoping that we can continue on this theme for a future meeting and discuss narrative medicine and the intersection between psychotherapy and literature. So it might well be worth starting here and developing this further later on.

Now comes the matter of a time and date for our first meeting. As I mentioned above, I propose that we meet in two weeks’ time (i.e. the week commencing 17 October). Please fill in the following Doodle poll with the times at which you are available, and we can find a time to meet accordingly. If you would like to discuss alternatives, please feel free to contact me.

Finally, if you have any questions about the Reading Group, any suggestions for things to read or would like to know more, feel free to get in touch via email. You can also find us on Facebook ( and our blog (


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