This anthology culls 1,500 excerpts from approximately 600 works of literature primarily written in the past two centuries and representing all major genres--the novel, drama, poetry, and essay. These brief selections highlight how literature portrays the medical profession and also provide ample evidence of many recurrent themes about the doctor-patient relationship and the personal lives of physicians present in the pages of fiction.

The book is organized into eleven chapters devoted to the following subjects: the doctor's fee, time, bedside manner, the medical history and physical examination, communication and truth, treatment, detachment, resentment of the medical profession, hospital rounds, social status, and the doctor in court. Many well-known authors including Anton P. Chekhov, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Ernest Hemingway, Thomas Mann, W. (William) Somerset Maugham, Leo Tolstoy, Tennessee Williams, and William Carlos Williams are featured in this anthology but less notable writers are also introduced. A twenty-three-page bibliography of primary and secondary sources is a useful element of the book.


Unlike most anthologies on the topic of literature and medicine, this volume integrates only snippets (a few sentences or at most a paragraph or single stanza) from selected literary works into a detailed discussion about fictional physicians and the manner in which they practice medicine. The book is essentially a lengthy essay focusing on the interaction between doctors and patients as depicted in famous and even little known works of literature.

It addresses some curious topics not likely to be found in other anthologies: drug salesmen, powerful patients, and the presence of the doctor in the courtroom (either as expert witness or defendant). The anthology functions equally well as both a reference work and a fascinating jaunt through the pages of literature with its marvelous depictions of doctors as sometimes saint, sinner, genius, fool, lackey, and despot.


See also The Doctor in Literature. Volume 2 - Private Life, by Solomon Posen
(Radcliffe Publishing, Oxford, 2006, 298 pp.).


Radcliffe Publishing

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