• Remembering William Carlos Williams’s "The Use of Force": Anti-Vaxxers, Medical Ethics, and Short Story Syllabi.

    Author(s):
    Shawna Ross (see profile)
    Date:
    2016
    Subject(s):
    Literature, Modern, Poetics
    Item Type:
    Presentation
    Meeting Title:
    Remembering Williams, Williams Remembering
    Meeting Org.:
    Modern Language Association
    Meeting Loc.:
    Vancouver, B.C.
    Meeting Date:
    10 January 2015
    Tag(s):
    William Carlos Williams, medical humanities, Modern literature
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/M6Q783
    Abstract:
    I argue that Williams’s doctor stories must be remembered on our syllabi due to contemporary discursive trends in medical ethics. Treating “The Use of Force” as a case study, I create parallels between its representation of resistance to diphtheria anti-toxin and the rhetoric of “anti-vaxxers” like Jenny McCarthy, Andrew Wakefield, Michelle Bachmann, and Bill Maher. I trace the contemporary resurgence of the anti-vaccination activism that plagued Williams’s own medical career, adapting concepts from Bruno Latour’s “Has Critique Run Out of Steam?” The potential threat to public health has been graphically illustrated by recent vaccine-preventable outbreaks of the measles in New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Indiana, and Minnesota, as well as of mumps, rubella, polio, and whooping cough across the world. I show, with reference to notes from Williams’s unused introduction to The Farmer’s Daughter, that “The Use of Force,” by emphasizing the morally ambiguous struggle between a patient’s (or parents’) choice and a physician’s responsibility, reveals the underlying rhetorical structure of contemporary medical ethics and provides a new way for readers born after the success of the DPT, MMR, and other vaccines to see the consequences of forgetting that struggle.
    Metadata:
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    6 years ago
    License:
    All Rights Reserved
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