Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: Literature

  • Middle Ages, Middlemarch, and the mid-twentieth century: Idealism at risk

    William MarshallTucson, AZ The dissatisfaction with modern medicine felt by both patients and doctors occurs despite unprecedented advances and successes in disease treatment and prevention. Corporate Medicine (huge healthcare conglomerates that control much of medical care) and Big Pharma (giant research, development, and sales entities) are understood as prime exemplars of monopolistic greed. Income disparity…

  • The Call of the Wild and COVID-19

    Liam ButchartStony Brook, New York, United StatesSamantha RizzoWashington DC, United States The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought a terrible toll upon all of us and has brought the medical system—and the providers who inhabit it—to its knees. There is a tradition in medicine, following Sir William Osler’s “Aequinimitas,” of compassionate detachment: as physicians or trainees, we…

  • Carl Gustav Jung

    Anne Jacobson Oak Park, Illinois, United States   Carl Jung. Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Creative Commons. In the autumn of 1913, Carl Gustav Jung was traveling alone by train through the rust and amber forest of the Swiss countryside. The thirty-eight-year-old psychiatrist had been lately troubled by strange dreams and a rising sense of tension,…

  • Somerset Maugham

    JMS Pearce Hull, England I have two professions, not one. Medicine is my lawful wife and literature is my mistress; when I get tired of one I spend the night with the other.—Anton Chekov, 1888 As a graduate who abandoned medicine in favor of writing and other careers ranging from poetry to piracy, Somerset Maugham (1874–1965)…

  • Review of Fracture: Stories of How Great Lives Take Root in Trauma

    Arpan K. BanerjeeSolihull, United Kingdom The lives of people who seem to be endowed with extraordinary abilities have long been a source of fascination. The famous Italian physician, researcher, and founder of the science of criminology, Cesare Lombroso, professed this interest in his 1889 book The Man of Genius, stating that genius was a form…

  • “Scarlet letters” — The depiction of scarlet fever in literature

    Emily BoyleDublin, Ireland 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 (up to 25%) when epidemics were common in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in Europe and the US,1,2 it is seen less…

  • 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 LickissHobart, Tasmania, Australia 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 remain facts suggesting profound disquiet among physicians, albeit well disguised: high rates of substance abuse, burnout, suicide . . .…

  • The anatomy of bibliotherapy: How fiction heals, part III

    Dustin Grinnell Boston, Massachusetts, United States 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 we cannot always say what we are really thinking in civilized conversations, literature often describes who we genuinely are more…

  • The anatomy of bibliotherapy: How fiction heals, part II

    Dustin Grinnell Boston, Massachusetts, United States The placebo effect When first exploring literature’s psychological effects on the reader, it is important to consider whether a book can have healing properties by acting as a placebo. In Persuasion and Healing, Jerome Frank discusses the importance of the connection between patient and healer. In his chapter on the…