Meet and Greet: Dr. Lorenzo Servitje

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Lehigh Culture & Community

We are very excited to introduce a new face to the community this semester: Dr. Lorenzo Servitje.

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Mareesa Miles: What do you love about what you do?

Lorenzo Servitje: There are so many things I love about this kind of work. One that strikes me at this particular stage in my career is the communal aspect of furthering knowledge—be that in engagement with another’s work in writing an article, collaborating on a project, hearing the newest work at conferences, or having student’s respond to or challenge my questions and ideas in class or as they develop their own work. In the past few years I have begun to appreciate responding to readers’ reports (love is not exactly the right word here). It has shown me how much our work does not materialize in a sort of single-author vacuum. Most recently, I have begun to venture into blogging in public venues which has made me rethink how I organize and write. I look forward to seeing where engaging in this form of communal dialog takes my work.

MM: What drew you to apply for the Lehigh job?

 LS: As preparation for our MA exam, we had to write a short statement on where we would envision ourselves working in the future as academics. The job ad for Lehigh, especially the dual appointment with English and HMS, was uncannily similar to the dream job I had envisioned before taking my MA. I know the term “dream job” gets tossed around a lot, but when this ad was posted, and my inbox filled up with colleagues and mentors suggesting I apply, I immediately celebrated and panicked—the aspirations I carried with me throughout grad school had the possibility of materializing.

That said, prior to reading the job ad, I had not considered my work in terms of social justice. Before, the closest I got was biopolitical theory which was still in very abstract terms. Preparing my job materials and coming for a campus visit made me radically rethink the implications of my current project. I came to consider how Victorian literature, history, and biopolitics co-constituted the distributions of health at that time and created a legacy that continues into the present. How the way we think, talk, and practice medicine produces “regimes of truth” that become social determinants of health, so often on axises of race, gender, class, and ability.

MM: What is your favorite book outside your field of study?

LS: This is difficult to answer, perhaps Dante’s The Divine Comedy or Nabokov’s Pale Fire.

MM: Do you have a graduate school regret–something you did and wish you hadn’t, something you would have done in a different way, or something you didn’t do and wish you had?

LS: I have two regrets when it comes to graduate school: I wish I had taken the advice to enjoy my reading year—to engross myself in my topic and fields—rather than read for the proximate goal of the exam. Secondly, I wish I had practiced better work-life balance, specifically spending time with my family.

MM: What are you most looking forward to in your interactions with graduate students (in and/or out of coursework)?

LS: I am most looking forward to providing the same kind of mentoring I received as a graduate student: the close attention to research, introduction to professional networks, guidance for professional development, feedback on teaching, and the collaborative relationship to discover something new and communicate it.

MM: What draws you to interdisciplinary work such as in the medical humanities? Do you see this as the future of the humanities?

LS: What draws me to interdisciplinary work is it allows me to develop my passion for science and literature at the same time. For a long time as an undergraduate, I struggled with the choice. Even when I tried to compartmentalize the knowledge, I found myself writing arguments about literature using scientific and biomedical metaphors. When I had considered applying to med school versus grad school, I came to the realization that my interest in medicine was not working with patients; rather, it was a fascination with medicine as an idea and system of thought. In my work now, I still get to collaborate with MD’s and other biomedical professionals to help me develop my own work and, hopefully, give medical professionals another dimension to consider beyond the often algorithmic process of diagnosis and treatment.

As for medical humanities being the future of the humanities, I’m not sure if it is the future. I think it is part of a broader wave of the popularity of interdisciplinarity—DH and environmental humanities being part of this wave. I have certainly seen an increase in the number of jobs calling for this particular field. I am confident that it has a future—e.g. the number of med hum undergrad programs has quadrupled since the year 2000. The medical humanities opens up a variety of possibilities for working in academia, such as working at a medical school—which is very different in terms of both research and teaching for an English PhD. Moreover, the medical humanities is expanding in providing more careers for humanities PhDs outside of the tenure track job, such as work in hospitals, narrative medicine, patient advocacy, grant writing, just to name a few.

MM: What questions do you have for graduate students?

LS: First, I would ask what you like best about the program, and what, if anything, could be improved. Secondly, how can I help you?

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