Cheryl McGeachan, Phd Candidate at the University of Glasgow, writes: Recently, the Medical Humanities Research Network Scotland held its second workshop event at the University of Edinburgh, entitled “Theory into Practice”. Following on from the first workshop event at the University of Glasgow, entitled “Why Historicise?”, this workshop sought to investigate – and create critical dialogues around – the challenges associated with bringing together multiple voices from both those engaged in clinical applications and those humanities scholars who are less so, in an attempt to convey the different and similar pathways we take in our own work within the medical humanities.

Using G. S. Rousseau’s (1986) article ‘Literature and Medicine: Towards a Simultaneity of theory and Practice’, as a starting point, the morning’s discussion travelled across disciplines and professional backgrounds and allowed a space for critical reflection upon the practical applications of our own work. Issues were raised about the role of nurses and carers in the narratives associated with medicine and literature, and the importance of not reducing these accounts to medical doctors alone. Questions raised about the representation of the figure of the nurse in these larger tales was an important reminder to the significance of seeking out and displaying the narratives that lurk within their borderlands, but which reveal so very much about the complexity and diversity of the theory and practice of medicine.

The afternoon session used B. Hurwitz’s (2006) article, ‘Form and Representation in Clinical Case Reports’, to prompt discussion on the importance of reflective practice, and brought to the fore the realities of the inner workings of the hospital ward and the doctor’s surgery. By opening up these specifically medical spaces for discussion, a more complex picture of the boundaries and power-relations within and beyond them emerged, and from this there appeared a desire, by both those individuals working in and on these particular clinical spaces, to work through, and with, the intricacies of these landscapes of care.

Attempting to put “Theory into Practice” was never going to be an easy task. However, by allowing a time and space to attempt to unpick the entanglements of theory and practice in the medical humanities with a range of other individuals from diverse fields, set in motion a series of critical and reflective questions that I hope to continue to work through at future MHRNS events.


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