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"Contact Tracing" and "Before Light"

"From midnight to three is running time ... This part of the night is for fighting.  It has escaped the civility of day and evening, but has not yet slipped into the dreaming, drugged morning before light."

~Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures

Summary: "Contact Tracing" and "Before Light" (189 KB)

Thoughts from Queen's campus

By Mashal Haque, Clinical Psychology graduate student

In Contact Tracing, Dr. Fitzgerald takes on the role of a patient in a respiratory isolation room. During his time alone, Fitz ponders his identity and finds it somewhat difficult to reconcile the fact that his title and the knowledge that comes with it does not exempt him from contracting the illnesses that he strives treat in others. As a patient he feels uncomfortable being referred to as “doctor”, yet he wonders: 

“What would he be if not a doctor? His self before becoming a physician seemed like a half-remembered, dreamed version of himself, a persona that was impossible to resume in his present life.” 

Like Dr. Fitz in his new environment, I think that many first year students feel conflicted as to whether they should continue to be the person they have always been because they feel it’s comfortable, more “socially acceptable”, or more likely to land them a job, or to evolve into someone they want to be. I know I certainly did! As a student who had always had a keen interest in biology in high school, I found myself conflicted when I took PSYC 100 in first year and enjoyed it. I thought, “What would I be if not a biologist? Biology is something that I’m good at, something that I’ve always loved, and something that I had envisioned myself pursing in university, but I am really enjoying psychology”. In the end, I decided on majoring psychology and I have never looked back! 

Incoming students, my advice to you is to not define yourselves by any one attribute or goal! It is great to have hobbies, interests, and to have goals to keep you motivated, but keep an open mind! Explore different types of courses and step out of your comfort zone both academically and socially. You will learn a lot about yourself and you won’t regret it! 

Think about it

  1. How does the story of Dr. Gerstein illustrate the element of chance in medicine?  Why is Dr. Gerstein’s rhetoric effective with his patient?
  2. What coping mechanism do Chen, Fitz and Dr. Zenkie use when discussing the topic of their own death?
  3. How would you describe the relationship between Chen and Fitzgerald?  How is the last event of “Contact Tracing” emblematic of their relationship?
  4. How does the first person narrative show Chen as a fallible character, rather than that of a physician with a god-complex?
  5. Look at Chen’s last entry at 12:01 - what is the significance of this passage?  Does it reinforce a particular theme in Bloodletting?
  6. Having read the entire collection of short stories, what do you think the significance of the title is? 

Queen's connection

In "Before Light," Chen experiences anxiety and insomnia in the hours leading up to his night shift.  Stress, anxiety, and lack of sleep can have negative effects on your health and overall well-being.  Check out some of the information, resources, and tips offered by Queen's Be Well on maintaining a healthy lifestyle - both physically and mentally.

Media & links

"I had to throw away the book to do justice to the book" - Jason Sherman, writer for the TV adaptation of Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures.  In the article "Bloodletting," published in The Walrus, writer Charles Foran visits the set of the Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures television miniseries and speaks to Sherman about some of the challenges of adapting a literary work to the small screen.  

Lam speaking with actors Shawn Ashmore and Mayko Nguyen on set


"Think about it" questions 1-6 adapted from  "Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures Content Questions," Peel District School Board (.doc, 28.5 KB).