Listening for Narrative
s a historian, I like to tell stories that have been ignored or are kind of untapped,” says
Kline will put her desire for unique narratives to good use in her position, one of two new
endowed chairs in the Department of History, and the result of an anonymous $3 million gift
last year, matched with discretionary funds by President Mitch Daniels. These funds will allow
the department to develop a special niche in the history of science, medicine, and technology.
The department plans to fill the R. Mark Lubbers History of Science Chair during the 2014–2015
“The history of medicine is most closely linked to social history, in that scholars started
recognizing that you can’t separate health and disease from its everyday context,” says Kline. She
explains that the specialty has grown increasingly attractive as medicine has become a focal point
through which to explore ideas of culture, gender, race, ethnicity, and immigration.
While Kline’s current book on childbirth is about the emergence of gynecology and obstetrics
as a medical specialty, her classes explore various aspects of the body and health. The drive to
make history pertinent is Kline’s passion. “Medicine and disease are about so much more than
just microbes and technology. Young people who are going into careers in science and medicine
need to understand why things emerged the way they did.”
When she isn’t writing or preparing lectures, Kline, a professional violinist, will perform
with the Lafayette Symphony Orchestra. But whether she is practicing the violin or immersed in
research, Kline is listening for narrative. “It’s so much easier to get someone to identify and care
about something if there’s a story involved.”
Professor Wendy Kline took part in a week-long Midwifery Assistant Workshop at The Farm Midwifery Center in Summertown, TN as part of her research
on the history of home birth. The Farm is a collective where people from all over the world come to give birth, and is famous for its midwifery practices
and publications. Here Kline is learning how to take blood pressure measurements as she is coached by midwife Deborah Flowers. Photo courtesy of Wendy Kline.