Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Category: Literary Vignettes

  • John Keats statue

    Arpan K. BanerjeeSolihull, England John Keats, born in London in 1795, is one of the finest Romantic poets of the English language. He died at the age of twenty-five in Rome, where he had gone to recover from tuberculosis. The house where he spent the last years of his life, at the base of the…

  • Charlotte Gilman, Weir Mitchell, and “The Yellow Wallpaper”

    Jack RiggsMorgantown, West Virginia, United States Charlotte Perkins Gilman lived a complex and controversial life.1 A prolific writer and lecturer, she advocated for the social, economic, and civic liberation of women.1 She was also a nationalist, eugenicist, and white supremacist.1 Despite her prominent feminist role, “today, Charlotte is primarily remembered for her haunting story [‘The…

  • Agatha Christie’s poisons: Better dying through chemistry

    Howard FischerUppsala, Sweden “Everything is a poison. Nothing is a poison. It is all a matter of dose.”– Claude Bernard, French physiologist (1813–1878) Agatha Christie (1890–1976) wrote sixty-six detective novels, fourteen collections of short stories, and three plays. She is the best selling fiction writer ever published, with two billion books sold. Her works have…

  • Joseph Conrad and medicine

    Joseph Conrad wrote some of the most renowned novels of the twentieth century. Born in Poland in 1857, he entered the French marine service in 1874, and in 1878 began to work on English ships, eventually commanding his own ship and traveling to distant and exotic places. He learned English in his teens and became…

  • Englishes

    Peter ArnoldSydney, Australia According to Google,1 the language spoken by most people is English (1.5 billion), followed by Mandarin (1.1 billion) and Hindi (0.6 billion). However, of our approaching 8 billion, many more speak another language besides those 1.5 million in the top bracket. This other language has hundreds of “dialects,” which might obscure appreciation…

  • The birth of Oliver Twist

    From the book by Charles Dickens, chapter one: “Although I am not disposed to maintain that being born in a workhouse, is in itself the most fortunate and enviable circumstance that can possibly befall a human being, I do mean to say that in this particular instance, it was the best thing for Oliver Twist…

  • Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones: Feeding fevers

    Sally MetzlerChicago, Illinois, United States For years, physicians and pundits have deliberated the merits of starving or feeding a fever. Even the novel Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (published in 1749) presents a lengthy discourse on the recommended treatment of fever in regard to nutrition.1 As the heroic foundling Jones languishes in bed from a…

  • Doctor Thorne, a country apothecary

    Anthony Trollope is one of the few popular British novelists of the nineteenth century who is still widely read. He wrote some forty novels, notably the Palliser series about parliamentarian politics, and the Barchester stories with their intrigues in the established Church of England and featuring the lovable warden Mr. Harding and the shrewish Mrs.…

  • James Joyce’s Ulysses and the human experience

    Mateja LekicPhoenix, Arizona, United States Ulysses is a novel that explores universal themes of the human experience. A modern retelling of the Odyssey, it follows Leopold Bloom during his encounters on the streets of Dublin in a single day. Each episode loosely follows in Odysseus’s footsteps. As Bloom travels through Dublin, he encounters the scent…

  • A doctor of the old school

    “The apparition of a god would not have caused more commotion… “He belonged to that great school of surgery begotten of Bichat, to that generation, now extinct, of philosophical practitioners, who, loving their art with a fanatical love, exercised it with enthusiasm and wisdom. Everyone in his hospital trembled when he was angry; and his…