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Tech Fellowship Project

Posted on May 25, 2011 Comments Off

Bernadette Wegenstein receivedĀ a Tech Fellowship from JHU’s Center for Educational Resources to develop the project: Breast-cancer: New and Old Images; Tech fellow is Johannes Schade.

Project Description:

In my upcoming undergraduate class “Breast-cancer: a cultural-theoretical approach to an illness and its meaning” in Fall 2011, I will explore the history of the breast as symbol of sex and life, along with the cancer that affects it, not merely as a medical condition, but as a powerful symbol in culture, art, and literature. As a starting point, I would like to launch a web-based research environment for my class that includes an image database showcasing the progression of breast cancer in the cultural and medical imaginary: from the paralyzing and disfiguring removal of the breast in the “radical mastectomy” (invented at Johns Hopkins University by William Stewart Halsted in the 1890s) to today’s skin and nipple-sparing mastectomies that are often performed in conjunction with a beauty operation such as breast-augmentation, or bonus operation such as a “mommy-tuck.” In a second step I will develop a virtual, character-driven gaming environment, where student-players can experience the decision-making process resulting from a diagnose with breast-cancer: from DNA tests, to the decisions about the various degrees of surgical intervention (lumpectomies/mastectomies), to the reconstructive technologies of plastic surgery and other makeover strategies that reconstitute a new body and body image. This virtual experience will be mapped out in 2-3 game scenarios such as an office visit, a conversation between a doctor/nurse and a patient, a surgery, an “outing” experience (e.g., a breast cancer run), and other cultural phenomena occurring in relation to the illness. The idea behind this environment is to give students a sense of the landscape of breast-cancer from a cultural point of view. With the help of an image-database and some game scenarios students will experience and understand why the breast is a sign and site where Western culture believes life as such to be situated.