Medical Humanities

Course content

The medical humanities ask big questions about how health, illness, medicine, and the body are understood, and with what effects. They do so from an interdisciplinary perspective, attempting to overcome the typical separation between biological and humanities approaches by applying different disciplinary methods to answer shared questions. Disciplines include philosophy, ethics, history, religion, critical theory, literary studies, visual studies (art, image and film), museum studies, and many more. Medical humanities research often involves situating clinical or technical practice in a broad cultural, historical, and experiential context, but it also asks what role arts and humanities themselves play in the medical landscape, and includes the production and analysis of arts and humanities-based interventions that attempt to improve medical care

Contemporary science offers possibilities for modifying the human body that have prompted many to argue that we are now in a ’post-human’ era – signifying that we are moving past a previous era’s conception of humans as firmly in control of the world, distinguished by our rational intellect and autonomous decision-making process, into new uncertain waters. Artists using the tools and methods of science have produced bioart that also pushes at the boundaries of the human.  And the Internet age poses new questions about the definition of reality, and the role of materiality in virtual spaces. These moves in scientific, artistic, and online practice have been accompanied by philosophical and theoretical arguments that we should refocus on the materiality of the body and its entanglement with the wider world, stepping back from the dominant academic focus on language and discourse. The debate about whether we are, or soon will be, living a post-human reality is one of the most important cultural markers of our time. And medicine and health are a domain where this theoretical debate has concrete groundings and practical consequences.

The fall 2019 course of Medical Humanities focuses on the theme of (Post-)Human Materialities, and what this means for biomedical science and clinical practice.  Examples of topics that will be discussed are: 

•How do new ways of thinking about materiality and the human affect medical practice?

•What is the role of the humanities in this reconfiguration?

•Which technologies and devices lie behind the challenge to traditional conceptions of the human and of matter? For example, genetic technologies, but also tracking devices, network science, etc.

•How are our understandings of the body, the self, disease, wellness and death be-ing affected?

•What are the ethical and political implications of a renewed focus on materiality?

•What has really changed when we talk about the post-human, transhuman, or en-hanced human?

•What are the consequences of these different ways of understanding the human?

Examples of literature that will be used in the course:

Stephen Herbrechter: Posthumanism. A Critical Analysis. Bloomsbury Academic

Rosi Braidotti: The Posthuman. Polity Press, 2013.

Halberstam & Livingston: Posthuman Bodies. Indiana 1995.

Examples of objects we will study:



MSc in Public Health Science - elective course

MSc in Global Health - elective course

MSc in Health Informatics - elective course

MSc in Health Science - elective course

MSc in Human Biology - elective course


Learning outcome

The objectives of the course are:

  • to enable students to participate in the debate about what constitutes the human;
  • to deepen students’ understanding of the role and relevance of the medical humanities alongside medical and health sciences in current cultural and social conditions;
  • to provide a grounding to support future work or study in the medical humanities as well as in other career paths.

After completing the course the student is expected to:


Students will gain knowledge of:

  • new medical and scientific developments that affect the social and cultural conception of the human;
  • the most important literature in current debates about materiality and the post-human and their relationship to health, illness and the biomedical sciences;
  • the most important concepts and theories relating to the human aspects of medical science and practice.


The following skills will be developed:

  • analysis and interpretation of texts and examples drawn from science and the arts;
  • synthesis from diverse materials;
  • evaluation of different arguments and perspectives;
  • developing and substantiate an argument and perspective.


Students will develop their competency in:

  • critical reading
  • presentation
  • team work
  • writing extended prose pieces

Reading material will be made available via Absalon.

This course is open without pre-approval for students in the MSc in Global Health, Human Biology, Health Informatics and Health Science

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Type of assessment
Written assignment
7 day written exam after the end of the course.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
One internal examiner
Criteria for exam assessment

To achieve the grade 12, the student must be able to:


Students should demonstrate understanding of

  • debates around posthumanism and what constitutes the human
  • the relationship between these debates and conceptions and experiences of health, illness and the biomedical sciences
  • the role of the medical humanitiesalongside medical and health sciences in current cultural and social conditions;
  • new medical and scientific developments that affect the social and cultural conception of the human;
  • the most important concepts and theories relating to the human aspects of medical science and practice.


Students should demonstrate their ability to:

  • analyse and interpret texts and examples drawn from science and the arts;
  • synthesise materials from diverse sources;
  • evaluate different arguments and perspectives;
  • develop and substantiate an argument and perspective of their own.


Through their examination, students will show themselves to be competent at:

  • critical reading
  • writing extended prose pieces
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 20
  • Exam
  • 56
  • Preparation
  • 62
  • English
  • 138


Course number
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

See the schedule in syllabus.
40 students
The Study Board for Public Health Science and Global Health
Contracting department
  • Department of Public Health
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Adam Bencard   (4-7275727e5184867f753f7c863f757c)
Study secretary: Susanne Hannecke-Jensen,
Saved on the 21-03-2019

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Courseinformation of students