Professionalism vs. Empathy: Conflicts Shaping my Claim

In the final week of summer, I have made enormous progress in my research on communication and exchange in the doctor-patient relationship of William Carlos Williams’s medical narratives . Within the past two weeks, I have re-read and done further analysis on all of his short stories, and also read a few key pieces of scholarship—specifically Brian Bremen’s William Carlos Williams and the Diagnosis of Culture and T. Hugh Crawford’s Modernism, Medicine, and William Carlos Williams—on William’s writing that have illuminated and connected to some of the key themes and trends in such stories. By drawing on my own ideas and observations of Williams’s work and bringing in inspiration and ideas from accompanying criticism, I believed that I have finally come up with a solid claim to argue in my thesis!

As I said above, the pieces I have recently studied have lead me to notice a few major trends in Williams’s works and have aided me in looking for relationships between them. In Williams’s stories and poems about doctors and patients, some of the most commonly explored themes are empathy, observation, professionalism, emotion, science, and authority. A lot of these ideas fall into interacting dialectics: empathy vs. observation, emotion vs. observation, empathy vs. professionalism, science vs. emotion, empathy vs. authority, and so forth. I think that such conflicts (which all appear to be stemming from the basic issue of empathy and emotion conflicting with professionalism and authority in treatment/diagnosis) create tension and dynamics that shape the doctor-patient interaction!

I plan to continue my research and reading with these conflicts in mind, as I shape my argument around the main idea that such conflicts often serve as the latent subject of Williams’s stories and poems, and as such, create a dynamic tension that drives Williams’s writings.

It is such a thrill to have come to a revelation about my research, and to finally feel like I have a solid argument and claim in mind to give direction to my writing. I look forward to my continued research and seeing how my ideas continue to grow and evolve.


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