The Uses of Literature in Medical Education

Johanna Shapiro, Ph.D.

The power of poetry, I believe, is found in its very subjectivity. Literature is not a science, therefore it does not play by scientific rules. On an academic and intellectual level, it has its own rules, which I am only beginning to explore. But on a psychological and emotional level, its “call” as Robert Coles noted is clear and accessible. Poetry does not attempt to speak for the many, for the group, for the average. Instead, it dares to be one voice, and through one voice attempts to touch what has been referred to as the “universal singular,” It is the belief that if a single individual says something that is honest and true for them, it will speak to others as well. They may recognize themselves in that single instance. They may recognize others. They may simply develop some understanding of what is is like to be that individual in that place and time. They may even obtain insights or truths of which the author himself or herself was not aware, but that nevertheless are a legitimate interpretation based on the textual materials presented.

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