Pen and Scalpel: Literature and the Medical Humanities


Conrad Meyer, Caring for the IllThe Medical Humanities is a growing area of research, as indicated by Durham University’s own Centre for Medical Humanities. In this post, Niall Hodson and Jamie McKinstry outline some of the ways in which studies of literature can help us not only to understand how culture has responded to medicine, but also how the humanities in turn can beneficially influence medical practise.

All literature could very well be a vast hospital ward, accommodating literal and metaphorical conditions, patients, and physicians, both within and outside texts. Of course, specific diseases or injuries often appear: Samuel Beckett’s older characters suffer from dementia, Thom Gunn writes AIDS elegies, and, if we jump back around five hundred years, medieval knights suffered grisly war wounds which poets were not squeamish about describing in their most graphic form. As readers, we trust in our ability to treat, cure, or prevent conditions of body, mind, and…

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