Disciplinary Aliens: Narrative Medicine Pedagogy and Practice Utilizing Dennis Villeneuve’s Arrival

Design South (CDS) – 126

Thursday 26th, 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm

Lauren Mitchell (Vanderbilt University)
Annie Robinson (New York University, Grossman School of Medicine)

Dennis Villeneuve's film, Arrival, asks audiences an age-old existential question: if you knew the details of your future--all of the good and all of the strife--would you want to know? Based on Ted Chiang's "Story of Your Life," the film operates through a circular and proleptically circumscribed narrative. Linguist Louise Banks learns the language of a mysterious alien race, and subsequently begins to adopt the aliens' circular understanding of time such that she is able to see time in terms of its past, present, and future all at once.  Utilizing Arrival, this workshop will be twofold: the first will be a discussion of the ways in which the film engages the Lacanian premise that consciousness is shaped by language. Following this, we will pivot our discussion of the film into discussion and demonstration of Narrative Medicine pedagogy, with an open discussion about approaches to using this methodology in cross-disciplinary capacities for medical and other STEM professionals. Narrative Medicine, a newly recognized discipline, is the praxis-based arm of medical humanities that aims to utilize close reading and reflective writing to unpack the many emotionally complex experiences of caregiving. Many medical and health professions schools have taken an avid interest in this practice, and so this workshop will help support participants who are interested in developing a program at their own institutions. As both facilitators have extensive experience in employing such workshops at medical schools, we will offer guidance and support to participants in developing their own Narrative Medicine workshops at their institutions. Although the gray-area mindset that benefits the humanities may feel foreign--dare we say, alien--in STEM, we will offer practical support for participants who take an interest in translating the work of film and literary criticism across disciplinary boundaries.