The Outbreak Narrative

Fall 2019
Spring 2019
Maria Almanza
ENGL 1102

In "The Outbreak Narrative" will explore communication via our class topic: narratives of contagion. As defined by Priscilla Wald, author of Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative, “the outbreak narrative—in its scientific, journalistic, and fictional incantations—follows a formulaic plot that begins with the identification of an emerging infection, includes discussion of the global networks through which it travels, and chronicles the epidemiological work that ends with its containment” (2). Addressing fictional, medical, and journalistic accounts of the spread of disease, we will analyze representations of communicable disease and its transmission. Beyond contagious disease as an epidemiological fact, contagion makes apparent cultural anxieties about the dangers of human contact and the threat of illness. This is even more apparent in our modernized world, where viruses cross borders in ways that make us increasingly aware of the effects of globalization. For this reason, contagious disease, pandemic, and plague have become the inspiration for everything from news articles on “super-spreaders” to zombie movies to cultural myths of patient zero. We will examine historical instances of plague alongside cultural and literary portrayals in order to more fully consider the vocabulary, mythology, and cultural fascination surrounding contagion.

Course type: 
Course Level: 
Partner Engagement: 
Core Curriculum Requirements: