Journal of Medical Humanities 41 (1):53-64 (2020)

Martha A. Hall’s artists’ books documenting her experience of living with breast cancer offer future health professionals a unique opportunity to sit in the patient’s position of vulnerability and fear. Hall’s books have become a cornerstone of our medical humanities pedagogy at the Maine Women Writers Collection because of their emotional directness and their impact on readers. This essay examines the ways that Hall’s call for conversation with healthcare providers is enacted at the University of New England and provides a model for how such works might be used at other educational institutions to encourage empathy between practitioners and patients by engaging in conversations about anger, fear, and other common reactions to life-threatening illness. We explore the unruly nature of Martha A. Hall’s narratives of illness and care, as well as how the form of the books themselves engages the reader in a deep relationship with Hall’s personal pain and her humanity itself. We explore, too, the cumulative effect of these powerful books on readers who handle them regularly, as we do in our roles as professor and archivist.
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DOI 10.1007/s10912-019-09599-1
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