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For our third unit, we explore how notions of health and medicine are harnessed and explored artistically. Using a Health Humanities perspective, students compose an original literary analysis of a short story of their choosing and then present that analysis in the form of a digital video essay. This video essay will present an argument in support of their own unique interpretation of a short piece of literary fiction using images, video, graphics, sound, music, and voice-over narration that is effective and engaging to a broad audience.

In order to produce this video essay, students adopt the role of a Health Humanities literary scholar interested in short literary fiction as well as the public humanities. This means that one of their goals as a scholar is to engage non-academic and/or non-expert audiences. Students read and analyze a short story of their choosing through the lens of health and medicine, compose a traditional literary analysis of their selected text, and then translate that analysis into a script that will serve as the voice-over for their video essay. Students then produce their video essay using a variety of media, ultimately publishing it online in order to engage the public with their selected text.

In this final unit of the semester, students have the option of including secondary research into their work, but the priority is on their primary research, their individual interrogation of a short fictional literary text of their choosing. This requires them to develop a detailed and complex thesis statement in which they move from asking questions to forming their own unique argument, supported by claims and sub-claims.

Using the medium of digital essays forces students to “translate” their traditional essays across modes and media to make them more engaging for a broader audience, encouraging an engagement with public scholarship while also allowing us to explore issues surrounding digital literacy, visual literacy, and multimedia composition. To aid us in these attempts, we coordinate with the Media & Design Center (formerly known as the Media Resources Center or MRC) at UNC so an expert can help students become more comfortable with software for capturing and editing digital audio/video media for the purposes of presenting their own unique claims to a public audience.

For more information, see the Unit 3 Assignment Prompt, which should be accompanied by the Close Reading Worksheet.


And of course, be sure to explore the students’ completed video essays. In the drop-down menu for “Categories,” choose “Health Humanities: Literary Analysis Video Essays” to access their video essays, accompanied by transcripts, or you can just click here.