Literary Essays | Hektoen International

New opioid epidemic: another long day’s journey

Carol Levine New York, New York, United States   Papaver somniferum  (opium poppy) D. G. J. M. Bois (1896-97) Edmund Tyrone, age 23 (August 1912, New London, Connecticut) “It’s pretty hard to take at times, having a dope fiend for a mother!” From Long Day’s Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill, Act III1   Alexis […]

George Gordon Lord Byron and his limp

JMS Pearce   Fig 1. Plaque of Byron erected in Westminster 4/10/2012 Few would dispute that Lord Byron (Fig 1) was both a poetic prodigy and a flamboyant rogue. George Gordon Noel, sixth Baron Byron (1788–1824), was born on 22 January 1788 at Holles Street, London, son of Captain John (“Mad Jack”) Byron and his […]

Saints on trial

Michael D. Shulman New Hope, Pennsylvania, USA    The Lady with the Lamp There is an irresistible sub-genre of literature devoted to the moral takedown of saints and would-be saints, and it has brought forth contributions from some of the masters of English prose. One thinks especially of George Orwell’s portrait of Gandhi (“Saints should […]

The Brothers Grimm under the knife

Valerie Gribben San Francisco, California, USA    The fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm (1916). Magic-infused fairytales and modern medicine are intertwined as closely as the curving double helix of DNA. Do you doubt this? Well, let us start by acknowledging that the word “magic” has to a large degree regrettably lost its luster. “Magic” […]

“…One must imagine Sisyphus happy”

Katerina Dima Preveza, Greece   “Sysphus, carrying the weight of his agony, forever.” Sisyphus, 1548, Titan Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain. Ancient Greek mythology teems with stories of morality, despair, and the philosophy of the absurd. No story, however, had a greater impact on this young, impressionable medical student than the story of Sisyphus. Sisyphus […]

The unsexed woman: depictions of women in 19th century fictional literature

Katherina Baranova London, Canada   A vicar asking a woman if she likes her new female doctor, the woman retorts that she prefers male doctors and finds them more gentle. Wood engraving after G. Du Maurier (1834-1896). The nineteenth century saw unprecedented changes in medicine, both technical and professional, as two parallel tales dealing with clubfoot […]

Joseph Roth, a visionary poet and victim of European history

Frank Wollheim Sweden   Joseph and Friedl in Berlin 1927. From Wilhelm von Sternberg. Joseph Roth, Kiepenheuer & Wirtsch,2009 Joseph Roth was born on 2 September 1894 in Brody, then a Galician town in the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy, bordering Russia. His parents married in 1892 and like two thirds of the 20,000 inhabitants were Hassidic Jews. […]

Madness, mind-doctors and Mrs Dalloway

Sabina Dosani London, England   London top-hat, from the period of Mrs Dalloway, similar to the hats made by Rezia and likely worn by the treating psychiatrist Mrs Dalloway, published in 1925 as the fourth novel by Virginia Woolf, is a life-in-a-day novel, almost certainly influenced by James Joyce’s Ulysses. In her 1919 essay Modern […]

Narrative control and the monster within: empowering disability in Jane Eyre

Mary Vallo Glastonbury, CT, USA   “Jane Eyre on Page and Screen 14: The Veil.” Linnet Moss. The author of the article credits Monro Orr (1921) for the image. In chapter twenty-five of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Jane tells Rochester that the night before, “a form emerged from the closet” in her room and tried on her […]

Why ‘nurse’ Grace Poole is the greatest puzzle in Jane Eyre

Sarah Wise London, United Kingdom   Plate 5 (V), unnamed artist, illustration in Dr Alexander Morison’s Outlines of Lectures on Mental Diseases, 1826, purporting to show:‘Monomania With Pride, a female in whom, although a pauper, ideas of wealth and grandeur are predominant. She is liable to violent fits of fury when her delusions are called into […]