Collaboration in Literary Study

In the graduate class this semester, we plan to explore collaborative research techniques that are more common in scientific disciplines than in English.  Each student will contact a professor in Vanderbilt’s medical school or related scientific discipline to explore possibilities for developing a research project related to a topic that a professor (or post-doc) is pursuing.

Students will meet several times during the semester with a scholar from another discipline and learn about that person’s research with the goal of identifying a literary work or film that explores the social or cultural implications raised by the other discipline’s investigations.  In the process, I hope students will learn something about how grants are developed in the sciences; how multi-disciplinary teamwork occurs in the biosciences and bioethics; and how to generate papers on social, ethical, or cultural issues raised by science and medicine.

Students will write a paper about a novel or film that takes up one of the social or cultural issues raised by the mentor’s research.  I plan to do all the main work of guiding the student’s research, draft-writing, grading, etc., but the student will be asked to spend time with the scientist to learn more about what he or she does, and to get feedback on ideas.  The novels and films we are studying raise issues about many areas currently under research at Vanderbilt:

  • stem cell research
  • reproductive and therapeutic cloning
  • infectious diseases and pandemics
  • vaccination
  • organ transplants
  • chimeras
  • artificial reprodution and fertility
  • pharmacogenomics
  • religion and genetics
  • race, gender, and class in science and medicine
  • bioterrorism

The response among the scientists I have contacted has been gratifying.  So far everyone that I have contacted has agreed to participate.  Stay tuned for updates on the progress of this experiment.

Jay Clayton

~ by Jay Clayton on January 13, 2009.

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