The Physician in Literature is an anthology edited and introduced by Norman Cousins that aims to illustrate the multiple ways in which doctors are portrayed in world literature. Literary selections are organized into 12 categories including Research and Serendipity, The Role of the Physician, Gods and Demons, Quacks and Clowns, Clinical Descriptions in Literature, Doctors and Students, The Practice, Women and Healing, Madness, Dying, The Patient, and An Enduring Tradition.

Some of the notable authors represented in this collection include Leo Tolstoy, Herman Melville, Albert Camus, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw, Anton P. Chekhov, Orwell, Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevski, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Mann, Gustave Flaubert, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A healthy dose of William Carlos Williams makes for some of the most enjoyable reading ("The Use of Force" and excerpts from his Autobiography).


Nearly all writers have had experiences with doctors or at least a strong opinion about them. In addition, few experiences are more memorable or moving than those described by doctors themselves in the course of their everyday practices where even seemingly mundane doctor-patient interactions are imbued with drama and interest. This anthology builds upon these two premises in presenting a variety of short stories, essays, poems, and excerpts from longer pieces that illustrate literature's view of physicians. The practice of medicine provides both substance and inspiration for literature. Literature in turn helps doctors to connect with people and offers help in understanding the totality of life.

Three physician-authors, each represented in this book, articulate the intimate as well as entangled relationship between literature and medicine. W. Somerset Maugham advises "I do not know a better training for a writer than to spend some years in the medical profession." Anton Chekhov admits "I look upon medicine as my lawful wife and literature as my mistress." William Carlos Williams confesses that medicine "was my very food and drink, the very thing which made it possible for me to write." Williams might well be proud of his inclusion in Cousins's collection as the book provides a hearty literary feast with enough selections to satisfy the appetite of any reader--doctor, writer, or patient.


W. B. Saunders

Place Published





Norman Cousins

Page Count