Tag Archives: Literature

“Scarlet letters”—the depiction of scarlet fever in literature

Emily Boyle Dublin, Ireland   Fig 1 Image from page 291 of Diseases of children for nurses. by Robert Shelmerdine McCombs. 1911. Internet Archive. Scarlet fever, named for the erythematous skin rash that may accompany streptococcal infections (Fig 1), is often considered a disease of Victorian times. Associated with high levels of morbidity and mortality […]

Dirty, dark, dangerous: coal miners’ nystagmus

Ronald Fishman Chicago, Illinois, United States   A coal miner without a headlamp digging an undercut at the coal face, using only the dim light supplied by a small flame lamp. From Snell 12 It’s dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew, Where the danger is double and pleasures are few Where the rain […]

Spinoza and medical practice: can the philosophy of Baruch Spinoza enrich the thinking of doctors?

Norelle Lickiss Hobart, Tasmania, Australia   Portrait of Baruch de Spinoza (1632-1677), ca. 1665. Unknown. circa 1665. Gemäldesammlung der Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, Germany. As doctors we seek to assuage the distress of our patients by relieving symptoms, guarding personal dignity, and remaining present even as they are dying. Yet despite these lofty goals, there […]

The anatomy of bibliotherapy: how fiction heals, part III

Dustin Grinnell  Boston, Massachusetts, USA   Portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche. Photo by Gustav Schultze. 1882. Taken from Nietzsche by Walter Kaufmann, Fourth Edition. Public Domain. A cure for loneliness In the video “What is Literature For?” produced by The School of Life, author Alain de Botton claims that books are a cure for loneliness. Since […]

The anatomy of bibliotherapy: how fiction heals, part II

Dustin Grinnell  Boston, Massachusetts, USA   Frontispiece to the 6th edition of Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton (published under the pseudonym Democritus Junior). 1868. From the Internet Archive and the Public Domain Review. The placebo effect When first exploring literature’s psychological effects on the reader, it is important to consider whether a book can […]

The anatomy of bibliotherapy: how fiction heals, part I

Dustin Grinnell  Boston, Massachusetts, USA   Man Reading Book showing cityscape, suggesting an Open Doorway. From iStock. Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind. —Rudyard Kipling Literature is medicine for the soul In the 1980s, the mother of Northrop Frye, a Canadian literary scholar, was in the hospital, ill and delirious. […]

Balancing empathy

Nora Salisbury Vancouver, BC, Canada   Street art in Vancouver’s downtown eastside. Photo by Lee Gangbar. I almost fainted on my first clinical day in nursing school. I was invited to watch a catheter insertion. While my gut reaction was to completely avoid it, I knew that as a new student nurse I was supposed […]

“Something monomanical”: Obsession and the unity of effect

Jack Rosser Herefordshire, England, United Kingdom   A portrait of Poe in 1848, not long prior to his passing in 1849. The concept of monomania first gathered popularity in France at the beginning of the nineteenth century; the term “referred to a type of mental disorder in which a person would have fixed, and often […]

Connecting literature with medicine

Rubina Naqvi Karachi, Pakistan   Portrait of Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, 1898 Osip Braz Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow There is a need for increasing the education of medical students through the use of literature, so that physicians can become knowledgeable about and eager to confront the social, economic, and cultural contributors to illness. This is particularly important […]

That reminds me of a story: the language of narrative in medicine

Ann Redpath New York City, United States Story is ubiquitous. It’s no wonder that it shows up in medicine. How does narrative feed medical language?    Photography by teachandlearn “I have over 500 patients,” the heart surgeon raised her voice in exasperation. “I just want you to hear my side of the story,” the patient countered. […]