Professor of English
University of British Columbia
jsegal at mail dot ubc dot ca
Description of Current Work
I am currently completing a book manuscript for the Penn State UP/RSA transdisciplinary book series. The ms is called (still tentatively) “Personal Experience/Public Discourse: Living in the Idiom of Health and Illness at the Beginning of the Twenty-First Century.” The book will include chapters on, among other things, the history and rhetoric of pharmaceutical advertising and on the persuasive element in current discourses on these topics: breast-cancer, pain, “female sexual dysfunction,” and aging. I have published (other things) on all of these topics before—but nothing on the rhetoric of aging. Because the aging chapter has been such a challenge to write—and has taken me to a range of literatures across humanities, social sciences, medicine, and health policy—and because I am importantly aging as I write, I will be applying this fall for funding to support research for a book-length project on rhetoric, age and identity. My attention will be on, among other things, (the rhetoric of) media representations of old women.
My presentation at our symposium is on my female-sexual-dysfunction research, particularly as it brought me last October to the FDA for “patient-focused” meetings on the “unmet need” for a pharmaceutical treatment for “female hypoactive sexual desire disorder” (all terms used by the FDA). One of the methodological things I learned from being at those meetings is that participant-observation is a terrific way of doing research. Something else I learned—learned again, since I already knew it—was this: there are many constituencies outside of the academy (clinicians and health activists to name two) very excited to have access to rhetorical observation. I have, for a long time, worked to bring rhetorical study to non-academic audiences, but FSD has opened up avenues of contact I had not before explored. I’m excited to discover the range of partners and possible audiences for my work on aging.