In her first book, The Medical Imagination, Sari Altschuler uncovers a history of the imagination in medicine. Literature, she demonstrates, was an essential tool for this work in the 18th and 19th centuries, helping doctors craft medical theories. Reading and writing poetry, novels, and plays trained judgment, sharpened observation, and provided evidence for medical research.
Altschuler, an assistant professor of English at Northeastern whose research interests include literature and medicine and disability studies, is now examining the experiences of disability in the early years of the republic and how people with disabilities came to understand the world through their impairment.
“The project argues that this disability based knowledge profoundly shaped American culture in its early decades in ways we have not fully understood, particularly cultural notions of citizenship,” Alschuler said.