Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Category: Literary Essays

  • Tea with Walter de la Mare by Russell Brain

    JMS PearceHull, England “The little nowhere of the brain” Many physicians have dabbled in literature and the arts, or as “medical truants” have abandoned medicine for such ventures. A unique collaboration of medicine and literature was the friendship and exchange of diverse stories and speculative ideas of human experience between the eminent neurologist Walter Russell…

  • Pippi Longstocking: Escapist fiction for children, a clinical case description, or a feminist icon?

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “Think for yourself is the mantra she whispers in children’s ears. Don’t believe the teachers, the police, the child welfare workers…”1– A resumé of Pippi Longstocking’s philosophy Pippi Longstocking (or Pippi Långstrump in the original Swedish) is a fictional nine-year-old girl. She has great self-confidence, superhuman strength, and much joie de vivre.…

  • Spoonerisms

    JMS PearceHull, England The name of the Rev. William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), warden of New College Oxford 1903–24, is preserved, some would say hallowed, for his involuntary invention of a verbal curiosity. Many found it amusing and the eponym Spoonerism came into colloquial use in Oxford from about 1885. Spoonerisms are the accidental transpositions of…

  • Charles Dickens and the Victorian perception of blindness

    Curtis MargoLynn HarmanTampa, Florida, United States Charles Dickens (1812–1870), the most recognized English author after Shakespeare, left a legacy of fictional characters, many of whom are inseparably associated with the cruelties of the Industrial Age, poverty, and disability. On his first trip to America, Dickens went out of his way to meet Laura Bridgman (1829–1889),…

  • Noah Webster’s war on words

    JMS PearceHull, England “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go.” When Claudius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (III.3) speaks this line, he reminds us of the singular importance of the use of words, and hence the need, even for medical writers, to refer continually to fine dictionaries. Noah Webster…

  • Dylan Thomas’s terminal illness

    JMS PearceHull, England Time held me green and dyingThough I sang in my chains like the sea.– Dylan Thomas, “Fern Hill”, 1937 The poet Dylan Marlais Thomas (1914–1953) was born in Cwmdonkin Drive in Swansea on 27 October 1914. He was much in awe of, but devoted to his father, an English teacher at Swansea…

  • ReJoycing in words and medicine

    Fergus ShanahanCork, IrelandEamonn QuigleyHouston, Texas, United States Making mejical history all over the show!-James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (FW) 514.2-31 James Joyce (1882–1941) is celebrated for his portrayal of the lives of ordinary people in his native city. Like many of the great writers, he had a lot to say about illness and disease. He was…

  • Tales of the psychosomatic in the Lyrical Ballads

    Stewart JustmanMissoula, Montana, United States The year 1800 saw the publication of John Haygarth’s historic pamphlet Of the Imagination as a Cause and as a Cure of Disorders of the Body, an inquiry into what we now know as the nocebo and placebo effects. The same year saw the second edition of Wordsworth and Coleridge’s…

  • Art, anhedonia, and family psychodynamics in the creativity of Nathaniel Hawthorne

    Stephen MartinThailand There are interesting questions about how the mental phenomenology of the great writer Nathaniel Hawthorne1 drove his work. His supreme narrative gift and engaging observation were shadowed by anhedonia, which is a complete or partial lack of the ability to experience pleasure and a hallmark of clinical depression. In modern criteria,2 major depressive…

  • Miguel Hernández

    Nicolas Roberto RoblesBadajoz, Spain Miguel Hernández was born on October 30, 1910, in Orihuela (Alicante, Spain). His father, Miguel Hernández Sánchez, was a cattle dealer, and his mother, Concepción Gilabert Giner, did the housework and took care of their four children. Miguel had very few years of schooling. At the age of four, he attended…