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This module explores the first year of AIDS in the United States and compare the similarities and differences between AIDS and the first year of COVID19 in the United States. It then explores Mark Doty’s Heaven’s Coast: A Memoir as a case study that exposes trauma even as it works toward resilience.


  1. Lecture: From Trauma toward Resilience


By the end of this module, you’ll be able to:

  • Apply inquiry and analysis to scientific commentaries and newspaper reports
  • Use critical thinking to test the claims and conclusions in peer-reviewed research
  • Practice creative thinking in a response to a trauma-themed artifact
  • Participate in discussions that demand empathy and open-mindedness, and that demonstrate a comfort with ambiguity


  1. Lecture: Exploring the First Year of AIDS in America
  2. Reading: “Pneumocystis Pneumonia – Los Angeles,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
  3. Reading: “Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Pneumocystis Pneumonia among Homosexual Men — New York City and California,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly
  4. Reading: “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals,” New York Times
  5. Reading: “Follow-Up on Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Pneumocystis Pneumonia,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
  6. Reading: “New Homosexual Disorder Worries Health Officials,” New York Times
  7. Questions to Consider:
  • In what ways do the Morbidity and Mortality reports differ from the New York Times articles?  What different kinds of information do they share with their readers?  What do the reports and the articles have in common?  What kinds of biases do they express?  How would you compare these reports and articles from the first year of the AIDS pandemic with articles and reports that you’ve read during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic?  What seems similar?  What seems different?
  • Take the interactive tour of the Avert HIV Timeline. Describe the ways this timeline may (or may not) resemble the various COVID-19 timelines that we see online and on television.  What do you make of the menu “tabs” banner that begins with “Featured” at the top of the HIV Timeline?  What do you make of the menu “tabs” banner that begins with “Silent Epidemic” at the bottom of the HIV Timeline?  What kinds of information do you find when you click on the various “event circles”?  What kinds of emotions do you think the HIV Timeline attempts to elicit from its visitors?  Why (or why not) might those emotions seem inappropriate emotions to elicit in the context of COVID-19?


  1. Lecture: Heaven’s Coast: A Memoir – and a Case Study
  2. Reading: Judith L. Herman, “Recovery from Psychological Trauma,” Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences
  3. Reading: Ann Kaplan, “Trauma Studies Moving Forward: Interdisciplinary Perspectives,” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism
  4. Reading: Mark Doty, “Pulling Meaning from Life’s Losses: An Interview with Mark Doty” Hospital Drive
  5. Questions to Consider:
  • Using the information you find relevant and thought-provoking from readings in this session, apply that information to a cultural production (or “artifact”) of your choice — a piece of literature, a film, a song, a painting, and so forth.  How is the artifact trauma-informed?  What is the trauma?  Does the trauma seem “personal” — as in an encounter with an individual kind of disruption?  Or does the trauma seem “collective” — as in an encounter with a public and / or widespread disruption?  How does this artifact suggest a move away from trauma and toward resilience?  Or, perhaps, what prevents the artifact from making such a move?


Return to the cultural production (or “artifact”) that you discussed in Session 2.  Then, imagine a way to sort of “re-purpose” its message in a different genre. For example, you might take a section from Mark Doty’s Heaven’s Coast and paint or draw a picture of the “visual” that Doty’s words evoke in my mind.  Or you might take that same section of Heaven’s Coast and turn it into a 2 or 3 page graphic novel. Or you might write a rap lyric in response to one or two paragraphs of prose from Heaven’s Coast and, even, record it and share it as an .mp3 file.

After you complete your Creative Response, share your thought processes in a 1- or 2-pages. Consider the following: Why did you choose your particular artifact?  What specifically about the artifact’s message or the artifact’s trauma is meaningful to you?  Why?  How did you decide on your “re-purposing” genre (the painting, the graphic novel, the rap lyric, and so forth)?