Tag Archives: Literary Essays

Heinrich Heine and the mattress tomb

Nicolás Roberto Robles  Badajoz, Spain   Harry Heine was born in Bolkerstrasse, Düsseldorf, Germany. He jokingly described himself as the “first man of the century,” claiming that he had been born on New Year’s Eve 1800. Researchers have discovered, however, that December 13, 1797, is most likely the date of his birth. The oldest of […]

The most enduring fictional character in literature, Sherlock Holmes, created by a physician

Marshall A. Lichtman Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, New York   Figure 1. Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Homes) with pipe and Nigel Bruce (Dr. John H. Watson). A scene from the film “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” in 1939. The plots rarely adhered to the Conan Doyle story plots and Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard and Dr. Watson […]

The Yellow Wallpaper: the flawed prescription

Mahek Khwaja  Karachi, Pakistan   Yellow Wallpaper Art: A Bowl with “The House”~ Tower, the Yellow Room. By Julie Jordan Scott on Flickr. CC BY 2.0.  Charlotte Perkins Gilman wrote her short story The Yellow Wallpaper in nineteenth-century America when gendered norms prevailed in society at large and notably in medicine. In a previous article, “Charlotte Perkins […]

Friedrich Nietzsche—much afflicted philosopher

Friedrich Nietzsche By Edvard Munch. 1906. Thielska Gallerie, Sweden. Via Wikimedia. Friedrich Nietzsche was one of the most important philosophers of the nineteenth century. Though often misinterpreted, his influence has been enormous. Like his compatriot Schopenhauer, he questioned the comfortable beliefs of the conservative bourgeoisie of his time. His writings have fascinated generations of readers, […]

Doctor Johnson and his ailments

Samuel Johnson, L.L.D. ca.1770. Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru – The National Library of Wales. Public Domain Samuel Johnson, one of the greatest English literary figures of all time, is remembered more for what he said than for what he wrote. Other writers may have been more successful or more profound, but none had as great a […]

Using Latin to settle medical pronunciation debates

Raymond Noonan Brooklyn, New York, United States   Author’s note: Original Latin words are written in italics, with macrons (ā) indicating long vowels. Equivalent Latin-derived medical terms are given without italics. Acute accents (á) are sometimes used to indicate stress accent in both English and Latin. Informal phonetic spelling that should be familiar to most […]

Rudyard Kipling and the medical profession

George Dunea James L. Franklin Chicago, Illinois   Portrait of Rudyard Kipling from the biography Rudyard Kipling by John Palmer. 1907. Accessed via Wikimedia Born in Bombay but educated in England, the great master of the English language did not return to India until he was seventeen years old in 1882. He worked for local newspapers in […]

Children treating children: Anne Shirley as clinician

Kathryne Dycus Madrid, Spain   First edition cover of Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, published 1908. Cover art by George Fort Gibbs (1870—1942). Public Domain. Childhood classics provide a range of illness narratives, reminding readers of dangers now preventable and even treatable, but also of the universal imperatives of understanding and accommodating […]

Emily, Usher, and American Gothic perspectives on mortality

Olga Reykhart Liam Butchart Stony Brook, New York, United States   1894-1895 Illustration by Aubrey Beardsley of the short story “The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe. Accessed via Wikimedia. In an editorial for Medical Humanities, Gillie Bolton notes that death is a common theme in literature and also in medicine. […]

The literary breakdown in Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch

Carol-Ann Farkas Boston, Massachusetts, United States   The Goldfinch By Carel Fabritius. 1654. Mauritshuis. Public Domain. Wikimedia. I. Diagnostically speaking, the “nervous” or “mental” breakdown is not a thing. The term has never been formally used in psychology, which has long preferred specific, definable categorizations of symptoms and conditions: stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression, trauma.1 And yet […]