Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Tag: writing

  • 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…

  • Love as illness: Symptomatology

    Frank Gonzalez-CrussiChicago, Illinois, United States Is love a disease? I mean erotic, obsessive, knees-a-trembling, passionate love. This is a question on which philosophers have descanted interminably. So have anthropologists, physicians, poets, and, in short, all those who suffer what Juvenal called insanabile cacoethes scribendi1 (“the incurable mania of writing”). All these have set forth their…

  • Why do physicians write so badly?

    Peter ArnoldSydney, Australia An old joke is that pharmacists are the only people who can read physicians’ handwriting. This piece is not about handwriting, but about writing style. Compared with great medical authors, like Somerset Maugham, Conan Doyle, Anton Chekhov, John Keats, and Friedrich von Schiller, most physicians are not good writers. (I could have…

  • Women in the medical profession: The trial of Jacoba Felicie de Almania

    Mariel TishmaChicago, Illinois, United States In November 1322 a group of folk healers and empirics were put on trial by the Faculty of Medicine from the University of Paris. Their crime was practicing medicine without licenses issued by the university. The punishment was excommunication and a fine of sixty Parisian livres.1 Among the group was…

  • Notes from writing a character with a bleeding disorder

    Nicole HebdonBuffalo, New York, United States I have read two books that feature characters with bleeding disorders. The first was a used paperback with a neon green and blue cover, like bowling alley carpet under a black light. I do not remember the title or the author’s name or much of the plot, but I…

  • Richard Dadd: art and madness

    JMS PearceHull, England Is there anything so extravagant as the imaginations of men’s brains? Where is the head that has no chimeras in it? . . . Our knowledge, therefore is real only so far as there is conformity between our ideas and reality of things. . . – (John Locke, An Essay Concerning Humane…

  • “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…

  • Richard Selzer on writing

    Someone asked me why a surgeon would write. Why, when the shelves are already too full? They sag under the deadweight of books. To add a single adverb is to risk exceeding the strength of the boards. A surgeon should abstain. A surgeon, whose fingers are more at home in the steamy gullies of the body…

  • Scribonius Largus

    Felipe Fernandez del CastilloMassachusetts, United States We don’t know much about Scribonius Largus. The first century Roman physician has been overshadowed by more famous medical authors like Celsus, Pliny, and Galen. Dismissed by one scholar as “second rate”,1 Scribonius has lurked for centuries in the footnotes of history textbooks and journal articles, and the bulk…

  • The power of the creative

    Margo DavisNew York, United States The names used within this article have been changed to ensure patient privacy. The question is often asked of me, “What in the world do you do as an artist-in-residence in a hospital?” Over time, my answer has crystallized to: “I bring the creative process to sick kids.” Sometimes my…