GRAPHIC MEDICINE'S POSSIBLE FUTURES: Reconsidering Poetics and Reading.

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Authors: Erin La Cour and Anna Poletti
Date: Spring-Summer 2021
From: Biography(Vol. 44, Issue 2-3)
Publisher: University of Hawaii Press
Document Type: Article
Length: 9,773 words
Lexile Measure: 1700L

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Since its coinage in 2007 by medical practitioner and comics artist Ian Williams, graphic medicine has steadily gained traction as an umbrella term for comics that explore healthcare issues, the theoretical discourse these comics engender, and the study of comics as expressive communicative tools. Embedded within comics studies, graphic medicine interacts with the interdisciplinary medical humanities, which applies insights from the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts to the study and practice of medicine. Primarily promoted as a means of engendering compassion in practitioners in training, the goal of the medical humanities is:

to reconceptualize health care, through influencing students and practitioners to query their own attitudes and behaviors, while offering a nuanced and integrated perspective on the fundamental aspects of illness, suffering, and healing. In Aristotelian terms, medical humanities aim to improve health care (praxis) by influencing its practitioners to refine and complexify their judgments (phronesis) in clinical situations, based on a deep and complex understanding (sophia) of illness, suffering, personhood, and related issues. In this respect, medical humanities have a more applied function than the humanities as they are traditionally defined in the academy. (Shapiro et al. 192-93)

Moving on from the use of comics in medical institutions, which predominately take the form of simple, top-down didactic infographics on posters and in patient brochures, graphic medicine aims to expand the benefits of using comics in both healthcare training and information dissemination. While the visual shorthand of infographics is easy to comprehend and can be helpful in providing patients with important information that orients them in relation to a specific illness or disability and its treatment, what they lack is an in-depth exploration of how illness and disability, as well as healthcare systems and statistics, can make one feel. Graphic medicine aims to redress this lack by focusing on how the complex affordances of the comics medium can provide subjective insights into experiences of various forms of illness and disability (Williams, "Autography" and "Graphic Medicine"; McNicol; Squier and Marks; Green and Myers). Emphasizing and examining the communicative potential of the juxtaposition of incongruent texts and images, verbal and visual metaphor, color, line, and pacing through page layout, paneling, and guttering, the study and production of graphic medicine aims to explore and expose the subjective experiences of health and healthcare systems that may be difficult for both practitioners and patients to understand or explain in either verbal or visual language alone.

The past decade has seen a proliferation of graphic medicine comics, produced in large part by individuals aiming to relay their personal experience living with a particular illness or disability. These works, along with those from the perspectives of doctors, nurses, social workers, carers, and family members, echo calls in the medical humanities for the urgent need for different understandings and expressions of illness and disability than those found in conventional medical discourse. Whereas medical institutions largely focus on diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment, graphic medicine takes a bottom-up approach that reveals how communication is not always easy or...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A707075966