Theorist Georges Bataille asserts that while sex is common to all animals, only humankind turns sexual activity into erotic activity. Professional medicine today is situated in a space remote from erotic experience. Especially because doctors openly deny that eros and desire hold any relevance to illness, a denial echoed by patients who learn to repeat what doctors believe, it is important to explore a contradictory argument (with its strong supporting evidence) holding that illness and medicine operate within an intrinsically erotic dimension. In this argument, Hippocrates stands as the founder and representative of rational medicine—call it medical logos. The great antagonist of Hippocrates, in a typological division useful in clarifying specific historical moments, is the ancient Greek god, Asclepius. Asclepius and Hippocrates reflect a continuing split within medicine between eros and logos. It is a split some patients and doctors today are openly beginning to question. Especially with reference to the work of four writers—Virginia Woolf, Audre Lorde, Anatole Broyard, and Rafael Campo—this study begins an exploration of interrelations in the modern and postmodern era among eros, illness, and medicine.
Like that early evolutionary theory (though unlike Darwin himself), much work in literary adaptation today thinks only in terms of higher and lower forms, that is, considering adaptations as more or less "faithful" to the "original". In biology, it was only when this sort of evaluative discourse was discarded that new questions could be asked and therefore new answers offered. To that end, a biologist and a literary theorist work to develop the homology between biological and cultural adaptation, between natural and cultural selection: stories, in a manner parallel to genes, replicate; the adaptations of both evolve with changing environments. Their "success" cannot and should not, in either case, be limited to their degree of "fidelity" to anything called a "source" or "original".
World health is at a critical crossroads. Diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS ravage many parts of the globe and new diseases such as SARS, West Nile virus, and avian flu threaten to spread quickly and virulently. A new global health movement is rapidly emerging to bring medical solutions to these immense world health problems. Desirable as this goal may be there are multiple negative consequences and side effects associated with this new movement. Using a biocultural approach, this article considers the wider social and cultural complications of the global health movement and questions whether the movement can really offer an untainted Rx for the world's ills.
This article offers a biocultural analysis of public representations of breastfeeding, identifying underlying social conflicts that infant feeding controversies mask. If the traditional biocultural approach to breastfeeding emphasizes a need to take account of biological facts from within an evolutionary perspective, this version attends to biological and cultural narratives of lactation as constructions of maternity that together produce diverse rhetorical and material results. Analyzing breastfeeding from this kind of perspective brings attention to social norms of male embodiment, the role of technology in mediating social anxieties about mother's bodies, and the ambivalent cultural impacts of the medicalization of infant feeding. The analysis focuses on three different representational domains: television programs and other mass media forms, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2004 National Breastfeeding Promotion Campaign, and feminist scholarship and activism addressing breastfeeding. In each domain, the same controversies circulate—for example, the physical difficulties of breastfeeding, whether breastfeeding in public is appropriate, how much breastfeeding contributes to health, or whether breastfeeding necessitates a technological apparatus to insure success. These debates really concern maternal responsibility and sexuality: the "problem of breastfeeding" is really another problem, namely the one initiated by women's attempts to enter into public life as women, with all the attendant difficulties of asserting equality and difference simultaneously and of challenging reigning public norms about women's proper place.
Over the course of the past two decades, the medical literature has published many peer-reviewed studies pointing to racially differential diagnosis and treatment by American physicians. These publications eventually produced an official report by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (Unequal Treatment, 2003) that confirmed the existence of widespread racial health disparities. Yet the detection and prevention of racially motivated misconduct by physicians has never made it onto the agenda of American medicine. The medical publications that do raise questions about differential (and potentially harmful) diagnosis and treatment, while essential to understanding the racial dimension of medicine, focus primarily on relieving medical practitioners of any responsibility for their racially motivated behaviors. Medical authors have developed a rhetoric and a euphemistic vocabulary that aim at preserving the humane reputation of the medical profession. This evasive strategy is reinforced by physicians' ignorance of the history of medical racism in the United States. Improved race relations within American medicine will come about when the medical profession confronts its own legacy of medical racism and requires physicians to learn something about how doctors think about race.
Alexander Hamilton's account of his thirty-five years as a merchant and ship's captain in the Far East (c. 1688-1723) describes the interanimating processes of his acculturation to the peoples, languages, and cultures he encounters and his acclimatization to the monsoon-driven winds, tides, and seasons of a region alien to the experience of his British readers. In its geographical, environmental, and cultural specificity, Hamilton's New Account rejects generic overviews in favor of a socioecological and biocultural analysis of South, Southeast and Far Eastern Asia. Hamilton demonstrates a sophisticated awareness of the feedback loops among climate, ecology, and culture in the monsoonal tropics, and his descriptions of the political ecology of Siam, Cambodia, Bencolon, and Johor reveal the ways in which currents, tides, winds, crops, flora, and fauna become, in Bruno Latour's sense, actants within complex material networks. In this respect, A New Account both supplements and calls into question the production of biocultural knowledge by other Europeans who wrote about Southeast Asia.
Through a comparison of H.G. Wells's The Island of Dr. Moreau and Thomas Huxley's writings with recent U.S. policy decisions concerning stem cell research and the creation of chimeras, this article proposes that literary study should play a greater role in genetics policy debates. Cultural representations of genetics carry wide influence, and ethics commissions increasingly invoke literary and historical precedents to buttress their conclusions. Yet literary scholars and others in the humanities have largely been absent from the policy arena. Because of institutional shifts in the policy sphere, humanists have an opportunity to affect public policy more profoundly than at any time since the Victorian era.