Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Deafness

  • How did deafness affect the creativity of Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770–1827)?

    Ting-Hsian (Denis) Chen Newcastle-under-Lyme, United Kingdom Introduction Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827) is one of the most revered composers in the history of Western music despite the onset of hearing loss early in his career.1,2 Beethoven’s works are traditionally categorized into three periods: early, middle, and late. Increasing deafness forced adaptation and eventually propelled Beethoven’s work from…

  • 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),…

  • Ludwig van Beethoven: music and medicine

    Michael Yafi Chaden Yafi Houston, Texas, United States   Beethoven home and surrounding area. Photos by Michael Yafi. December 2020 marked the 250th anniversary of the birth of Ludwig van Beethoven. The causes of the composer’s deafness and his death at the age of fifty-six have remained unknown, even after an autopsy carried out soon…

  • “Moonlight” and silence

    Anne Jacobson Oak Park, Illinois, United States   Woman at the Piano. Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1875/76. Art Institute of Chicago. At seventeen, I knew little about the limitations or losses that might cause a person to second-guess a vocation, deeply held belief, or identity. Perhaps those questions about the unknowable future inhabit the soul of a…

  • Smetana, his music, his illness

    Bedřich (Frederic) Smetana was one of the major figures of nineteenth century European music. Regarded as the founder of the Czech national school of music, he composed The Bartered Bride opera and the symphonic poem “Má Vlast” (My Homeland) with its beloved Vlatava (The Moldau) melody. Like Ludwig van Beethoven, he composed exceptional music even…

  • Sign Gene: The first deaf superhero film

    Paul DakinNorth London, United Kingdom If the superhero genre really is “about transformation, about identity, about difference,”1 then the description can readily be applied to Sign Gene, the world’s first deaf superhero film. Written and directed by Emilio Insolera, who was born deaf to deaf parents, this “unlikely cult classic”2 is a sci-fi thriller in…

  • Medical deafness or the madness of war: Goya’s motivation for creating the Black Paintings

    Sarah BahrIndianapolis, Indiana, United States The Spanish painter Francisco Goya darkened the plaster walls of his rural Madrid farmhouse with leering witches, a gaggle of grimacing hags, and a man with bulging eyes devouring a human form. The latter painting, posthumously titled Saturn Devouring His Children, features a Titan plunging a bloody child whole into…

  • On being disabled

    Yeji LeeToronto, Canada In the past the disabled have often been isolated from the rest of society by structural, physical, and emotional means, considered irrelevant or even detrimental to the development and function of the larger majority. The lame could not physically work; the deaf and mute could not communicate with others; the blind could…

  • “Super” heroes: Special powers in deaf characters

    Paul DakinLondon, United Kingdom In 2012 Marvel Comics produced a cover featuring New Hampshire Senator Lou D’Allesandro’s four-year-old grandson Anthony as Blue Ear, a superhero wearing a hearing aid. Anthony refused the prosthetic because superheroes did not wear them. His mother contacted the company hoping to find an inspirational example and received the specially-created artwork…

  • New life

    Hannah Joyner Takoma Park, Maryland, United States    Photography by dierk schaefer At first I thought I had a sinus infection, expecting to come home with a course of antibiotics. The doctor initially agreed, but when he heard my account of facial numbness spreading around my left eye, he referred me immediately to a neurologist,…