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Bodies and Barriers

Dramas of Dis-Ease

Drama, Literature & Medicine, Medicine


Dramatic pieces that raise issues of humanity in medicine

Bodies and Barriers offers a collection of dramatic pieces of our time that provide an aesthetic perspective from which we view today’s vital health issues. With each play exploring a different medical crisis, the collection covers a range of issues common to a diverse population, irrespective of gender or race. Included are works examining how individuals confront the challenges posed by physical disability, aging, and terminal illness. These plays take as their subject the human form and its pathologies while providing a humanistic perspective from which to view men and women as they come to terms with a loss of physical and emotional well-being.

Of broader interest is the attention these dramas frequently pay to questions of urgent social concern, such as the dehumanizing effect of technology and the threat it poses to human values. The plays Angela Belli assembled demonstrate how the theatrical form can open discussion linking medicine to the larger society.

Belli includes introductory essays to each of the works as well as a general introduction that presents an overview of the issues discussed in the anthology, their relevance to our culture, and their value in providing thematic material for the works included. This collection will be useful to students, health professionals, and the public.


Angela Belli is professor of English at St. John’s University in New York. She has served as chair of the English department at St. John’s and as president of the New York College English Association. She is the author of Ancient Greek Myths and Modern Drama: A Study in Continuity and coeditor of Blood and Bone: Poems by Physicians and Primary Care: More Poems by Physicians. Her participation in the meetings of professional organizations has been devoted to exploring issues in modern drama and literature and medicine; her many contributions to literary and medical publications have had a similar focus.