ATWP 305: The Rhetoric of Health and Medicine

ATWP 305 Spring 2024

Why Rhetoric of Health and Medicine? Let’s start with rhetoric. Rhetoric is more than political speech. Rhetoric is the study and art of communicating well—knowing how to be persuasive, how to instill action in others, and how to think critically about who is persuading whom of what (and how). Being able to tailor writing to an audience, speak confidently and clearly, and critically analyze texts and media are essential skills for academic and professional success!

Rhetoric of health, more specifically, provides students with the critical skills to both critically evaluate health information and craft effective health messaging. Recent scholarship has shown that rhetoric of health courses equip students to be conscientious and discerning in their creation and consumption of health messaging, and establish valuable interdisciplinary connections. We know that employers continue to value strong communication skills in employees; this upper-level rhetoric course will hone communication skills and provide students with the ability to write clearly and persuasively, and provide relevant and valued skills for students who work or will work in healthcare.

In the rhetoric classroom, I teach students:

  • How to make sense of information around them and think critically about the kinds of materials with which they engage, from news to social media to scholarship
  • How to write clear, persuasive papers and tailor messaging to an audience
  • How to participate in public discourse and weigh in on topics such as vaccination, global health, pharmaceutical advertising, health care privatization as well as broader questions about social responsibility

ATWP 305 takes up two main ideas: we will think critically about how language shapes our perceptions and actions, and learn to use persuasive speech to communicate effectively. We will focus specifically in the realm of health and medicine—these things are rhetorical! Consider, for example, recent efforts by governments to convince folks to get vaccinated The tools of rhetoric can help us to investigate why these have been successful (or not) and to craft better messaging. Health experts say that messaging needs to be clear, and the skills that we learn in this class can help us to make clear messaging. 

I’m also a great instructor. Here’s a blurb from a fourth-year UBC student after taking a similar course with me:

  • This was the first class (ever?) where I kept up with readings every single week, because my motivation was so high to participate and engage with the course. She is a gifted lecturer, and very skilled facilitator of discussions. Dr. Gaudet is incredibly conscientious, thoughtful, creative, and adaptable, and this shone through every class in her energy and engagement with students and the material at hand. If I were not graduating, I would specifically seek out any other courses taught by her and add them to my time table.

Also, in this article, prestigious McCall McBain Scholar, Daisy Couture, cites my rhetoric of health and medicine courses as essential to finding her intellectual home!

Proposed Topics and Texts:

Each week we will read 1-2 academic articles (available for free through UVic Libraries)
on topics including
• Controversies in Health and Medicine
• Rhetoric of Sex
• Metaphors and Genes
• Public Health Genres
• Pharmaceutical Advertising
• Contested Illnesses
• Rhetoric of Contagion

Proposed Assignments:

Weekly In-Class Reading Responses
1 take-home midterm (2-3 pages)
1 research essay (5-6 pages)
1 final exam (2.5 hours)

Spring 2024 - Monday and Thursday 1:00 - 2:30

For more information, please contact course instructor Dr. Loren Gaudet