Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

This course is designed to explore the human side of medicine: the nature of the physician's identity and obligations; the history and philosophy of the Western medical tradition; the experience of being ill and being a patient; and the challenges of medical ethics. The writing in this class is therefore conceived as an instrument of exploration, and is an integral part of the class's activities (see below for requirements).

Course Requirements

  • Assigned reading
  • 3 essays (20%/20%/50% of grade)
  • 1 ten-minute oral presentation, assessed for clarity and technique (10% of grade)
  • Revision of rough drafts for each essay
  • Participation in class discussion
  • In-class peer review of drafts
  • Peer-review-related photocopying
  • In-class writing exercises
  • Maintenance of a portfolio (see below)
  • Regular class attendance (see below)

Note: It is not possible to pass the course if you have failed one of the essays, if you have failed to participate in peer review, or if you have more than 5 absences. Failure to participate in class discussion will result in a deduction of one-half or one grade point from the final grade, depending on the severity of the problem.

Attendance Policy

Because this course is a laboratory for composition and interpretation, you must be present at every class and arrive in a timely fashion. After 5 unexcused absences, you will fail the class automatically. An absence on a peer review day will count as a regular absence and result in a deduction of two grade-steps from the final draft (e.g. B reduced to C+). 2 latenesses = 1 absence. You are late if you arrive at class after I take attendance.

In case of personal emergency, serious illness or injury, do not come to class, but inform me of the reason for your absence as soon as possible. (A dean's note will be necessary to be excused from class under these circumstances.) Absence for religious observance is automatically excused; nonetheless, please inform me before the fact.


During the semester, you are required to keep a folder in which you collect all of your rough drafts and final drafts. This portfolio will be handed on for assessment on the last scheduled day of class.

Peer Review

Each of your rough drafts will undergo peer review, meaning that you will receive comments from your classmates. This process is designed to provide multiple perspectives on each of your essays, and imitates the editorial processes essays endure during the process of publication. If diligently practiced, peer review will make you a better reader of your own essays and a better interlocutor for other writers.

For each day of peer review, you will be required to bring several copies of your rough draft. The copying process is your responsibility; please take care of it before coming to class.

Grading Criteria

See Grading Criteria Sheet (PDF)


Plagiarism occurs when the work of others is used and represented as if it were your own. Plagiarism is anathema in academe. MIT does not tolerate plagiarism, and the consequences of conscious plagiarizing are severe. Please review the MIT Policy on Plagiarism, available through the Writing Center Web site.

Wiggle Room

The final draft of Essay 1 or 2 may be handed in late with my permission. This policy takes into account the other demands on your time; use it wisely.