Melissa Bailar

Professor in the Practice of Humanities and Associate Director of the HRC
Steering Committee Member
Research Interests: 

In the medical humanities, Melissa Bailar’s research focuses primarily on medical and anatomical museums, particularly questions about their curation and the ways in which their objects play on the uncanny. Many European museums cultivate a jumbled curiosity shop aesthetic, while displaying skeletons, wax models, and preserved human anomolies as well as sinister-looking medical instruments and occasional artifacts assembled from human body parts. Additionally, she researches the history of anatomical models, specifically the “anatomical venuses” fabricated during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when a new appreciation for pathology led to the creation of surgery as a medical specialty. References to these venuses populate nineteenth-century literature as well as pop culture and contemporary art. Outside of the medical humanities, Bailar’s research ranges from narrative structures of French feminist film, to literary and photographic representations of performing women, to the effects of digital knowledge platforms on higher education.

Teaching: 

Melissa Bailar teaches courses in medical humanities, French and francophone film, and French literature. Her medical humanities courses include HURC 307, “Critical Humanities of Health and the Body,” and HURC 306/506, “Health and Humanities Master Class.” She structures these courses either as lecture series or as a cohesive collection of modules, thus taking advantage of expertise at Rice University and in the Texas Medical Center, as well as visiting scholars. Questions of particular importance in her classes are the ways in which film and literature represent medical professionals and patients and the motivations and consequences of such portrayals; the metaphors and moral traits associated with various ailments and what effect these have on medical research and treatments; and how medicine and the arts draw from and inform one another. Her courses also require original research projects using the vast resources available through the McGovern Historical Center and include field trips to museums, centers, and archives in the Houston area. Her Master Class also pairs undergraduate students with graduate students in the humanities who serve as mentors and offer guidance on research and critical thinking in the humanities.

 

Fall 15

 

HURC 306: HEALTH AND HUMANITIES MASTER CLASS

Fall 16

HURC 506: HEALTH AND HUMANITIES MASTER CLASS

Spring 16

HURC 307: CRITICAL HUMANITIES - HEALTH AND BODY

Fall 17

HURC 306: HEALTH AND HUMANITIES MASTER CLASS

 

Bio: 

Melissa Bailar is Professor in the Practice of Humanities and the Associate Director of the Humanities Research Center at Rice University. Bailar’s background is in French studies, and she has published articles on the actress Sarah Bernhardt, the feminist poet Nicole Brossard, digital archives, and trends in higher education and is the editor of the collection Emerging Disciplines (Rice University Press, 2010). She currently serves as a co-principal investigator on three grants supported by the Andrew W Mellon Foundation: a John E. Sawyer Seminar on the Comparative Study of Cultures titled “Platforms of Knowledge in a Wide Web of Worlds: Production, Participation, Politics,” a Public Humanities Initiative with a focus on Medical Humanities and Cultural Heritage, and a multi-institutional digital humanities network. She also serves as a co-principal investigator on an American Council of Learned Societies humanities postdoctoral fellowship initiative and a National Endowment for the Humanities award for a workshop in digital textual analysis. She teaches courses on critical humanities of health, French film, and nineteenth-century French literature.