Marcel Proust (1871-1922): reassessment of his asthma and other maladies. (1/49)

Marcel Proust endured severe allergies and bronchial asthma from early childhood. Those who suffer from the frightening and recurrent pangs of asthma often become dependent on their parents particularly mother; Proust was no exception. In his time asthma was poorly understood by physicians who considered the illness to be a type of hysteria. Decades later, we now understand that the severe, poorly controlled, suffocating episodes of asthma were responsible for the complex persona that Marcel Proust had assumed.  (+info)

The Chinese Nail Murders: forensic medicine in Imperial China. (2/49)

Robert van Gulik was a respected Dutch sinologist and author who first translated a collection of traditional Chinese detective stories into English and then created additional fictional stories based on the same characters and setting in the Tang dynasty. One of these stories, The Chinese Nail Murders, draws on van Gulik's professional interest in law and his knowledge of early Chinese works on forensic medicine. This novel develops a common theme in Chinese detective fiction, murder by a nail wound to the head. The difficulty in detection of this mode of violence posed a particular problem for the examining magistrate because postmortem examination was mostly limited to external observations. This essay compares the development of Chinese and Western forensic medicine in the context of the nail murder motif.  (+info)

By their teeth shall ye know them. (3/49)

These extracts from the literary archive focus on the role of teeth as a facial feature. Their contribution to favourable and unfavourable facial appearance by their presence or absence, their use as a guide to character and as a means of identification are illustrated.  (+info)

Nobel Prize winners for literature as palliative for scientific English. (4/49)

Plagiarism causes a serious concern in scientific literature. I distinguish two types of plagiarism. What is routinely highlighted and discussed is the reprehensible type of stealing another author's ideas and words. This type I categorize as "heterotrophic" plagiarism. A more prevalent and less-discussed type of plagiarism is the verbatim use of same sentences repetitively by authors in their publications. This I categorize as "autotrophic" plagiarism. Though harmless per se, autotrophic plagiarism is equally taxing on the readers. The occurrence of autotrophic plagiarism is mainly caused by the lack of proficiency in the current lingua franca of science, ie, English. The writings of 22 Nobel literature laureates who wrote in English, especially their travelogues, essays, and letters to the press can be used for benefit of improving one's own vocabulary and writing skills and style. I suggest the writings of three literati--Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, and Ernest Hemingway--as palliatives for autotrophic plagiarism in scientific publishing.  (+info)

Once upon a time... (5/49)

In this, the first of two articles discussing literature for and about children, we will be considering how writing for the young has changed, reflecting different and evolving perspectives on childhood. In the second article we will be asking whether literature can be used creatively and usefully in the training of doctors. The suggestion for the topic arose from a session we organised for paediatricians in the Communication and Management module of the MSc in Child Health at Leeds University.  (+info)

Shakespeare's chancre: did the bard have syphilis? (6/49)

Shakespeare's obsessive interest in syphilis, his clinically exact knowledge of its manifestations, the final poems of the sonnets, and contemporary gossip all suggest that he was infected with "the infinite malady." The psychological impact of venereal disease may explain the misogyny and revulsion from sex so prominent in the writings of Shakespeare's tragic period. This article examines the possibility that Shakespeare received successful treatment for syphilis and advances the following new hypothesis: Shakespeare's late-life decrease in artistic production, tremor, social withdrawal, and alopecia were due to mercury poisoning from syphilis treatment. He may also have had anasarca due to mercury-related membranous nephropathy. This medical misadventure may have prematurely ended the career of the greatest writer in the English language.  (+info)

'He found me very well; for me, I was still feeling sick': the strange worlds of physicians and patients in the 18th and 21st centuries. (7/49)

It is commonplace today to deplore the dissatisfaction of patients with the physician-patient relationship. Furthermore, historical investigation shows that this problem is not really new. We investigated an important source of patients' views in the 18th century, namely the letters of patients received by the famous Swiss physician, Samuel Tissot, and noted remarkably similar feelings of frustration. Yet the medical paradigms of today and of Tissot's times are considerably different. We propose that the persisting problems in the physician-patient relationship are due to a basic dissonance between the patient's ordinary modes of perception and the systematic way of perceiving reality characteristic of the physician. In addition, they reflect the unavoidable chasm between the ultimately private and singular nature of the illness experience, and the general and anonymous stance of medical theory. This chasm is therefore a permanent feature of the patient-physician relationship, predating the advent of scientific medicine, even if the latter reinforced it. In line with the current medical humanities movement, we believe that the engagement of physicians and medical students with literature and the arts helps them explore, and to some extent overcome, the existential divide between the patient's experiential self knowledge and the systematic, impersonal knowledge that plays a central role in medicine. We suggest a few examples of contemporary fiction that may be relevant and useful in this respect.  (+info)

Paths to and from poverty in late 19th century novels. (8/49)

Late 19th century novels provide graphic descriptions of working and living conditions and their impact on population health, in particular the detrimental effects of hunger, poor housing, environmental conditions, hazardous work and poor pay, smoking and alcohol and crime, but also the transformative possibilities of social and political action. The popularity of these novels helped raise the collective conscience of citizens and illuminated the direction for 20th century welfare reforms. Yet many of these problems remain and the pathways to and from poverty are still recognisable today. Although novels are now less central in conveying social information, re-reading these novels enables us to understand how social and economic circumstances were understood at the time and what led to social and political change.  (+info)