Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Master of Arts


Theory and Criticism


Faflak, Joel R.


This thesis makes three novel critical theoretical interventions in the medical humanities. The first uses Benjamin’s critical theory of art in the age of its technological reproducibility to reveal that the evidence-based biomedical model’s primary function is not to cure patients, but to prescribe politics. The technological reproducibility of evidence-based biomedicine transforms medicine so it can no longer perceive—or encounter—patients as unique, whole, and above all situated beings. The second intervention uses Sara Ahmed’s feminist phenomenology to theorize ethical encounters between medicine and its “others”—patients and literature—in such a way that particularizes the encounter, not the other itself. This theoretical maneuver re-accounts for unique, situated patients without essentializing them. The third intervention proposes a medical inhumanities that recognizes what conditions produce inhumanity in medicine’s encounters with others, like the encounter between a mentally ill refugee and evidence-based biomedicine in Rawi Hage’s novel Cockroach.

Summary for Lay Audience

One of the most common complaints by patients is that the medical system does not treat them as a whole person; rather, they feel reduced to just their biological disease. This thesis uses philosophy and literature to better understand how and why modern medicine fails to account for the whole, ill person and proposes solutions to this problem through the arts and humanities. More specifically, this thesis argues that modern medicine does not recognize how a patient's illness and health is not just biological phenomenon but also a socio-political one, and that philosophy and literature can help modern medical practitioners recognize this.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.