In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Book Reviews Jeffrey Meyers, Disease and the Novel, 1880-1960. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985. 143 pp. $22.50. Disease and the Novel, 1880-1960 deals primarily with eight works of fiction: Tolstoy's "The Death of Ivan Ilych"; Hemingway's "The Snows of Kilimanjaro"; Gide's The Immoralist; Mann's The Magic Mountain, Doctor Faustus, and The Black Swan; A. E. Ellis's The Rack; and Solzhenitsyn's Cancer Ward. The author describes his purpose in an Introduction , subtitled "Disease and Art," as follows: Because of the great number of novels about disease it was necessary to be selective. I have therefore chosen both difficult and significant fiction that was written between 1880 and 1960 when this theme achieves its finest literary expression, that treat the complex theme in various ways and that lend themselves to intensive analysis from this point of view. I feel it would be more valuable and interesting to concentrate on a small number of great works than to write a general survey of novels about disease, (p. 14) The book consists of eight chapters including the Introduction, though no conclusion corresponding to the introductory essay appears at the end. There are several problems in connection with this book, the first of which involves the title. As one can tell by reading the table of contents and looking up a few dates, only one of the eight works treated in the book ("The Death of Ivan Ilych") was published during the first two decades of the period specified in the title, and that one is a novella or long short story rather than a novel. Two more ("The Snows of Kilimanjaro" and The Black Swan) do not qualify as novels if we use E. M. Forster's definition in Aspects of the Novel ("'a fiction in prose of a certain extent' . . . not . . . less than 50,000 words"); and the last of the eight (Cancer Ward) was not available to the public until the later sixties and would therefore seem to fall outside the scope of the work as indicated by the title. Thus, Literature and Medicine 6 (1987) 156-162 © 1987 by The Johns Hopkins University Press Book Reviews I57 only five of the eight works are novels in the usual sense of the word, and those five were published between 1900 and 1970. A second and much more serious problem with the book arises in connection with what Professor Meyers means by "intensive analysis" and "this point of view." After the introductory essay, die rest of the book consists almost entirely of plot summaries and character descriptions together with statements asserting one-to-one correspondences between elements in the stories and social or political events, or even abstract conceptions, outside die stories. In short, by "intensive analysis" Professor Meyers apparently means a combination of factual information about the works and some allegorical interpretation of dieir contents. The one-to-one correspondences are often asserted simply by enclosing a noun within parentheses or dashes immediately after another noun, to which it presumably corresponds, as for instance in these statements about Ivan Ilych: "Ivan, who is swallowed up by the material possessions that occupy a good deal of his leisure time, becomes incapable of perceiving reality (his cancer)"; and again a few sentences later, "The gnawing disease —the ultimate truth —soon becomes a tangible enemy that drains his strength and will . . ." (p. 22). Meyers frequently uses the word symbolize, but it soon becomes clear that this word, in his usage, is an exact synonym for represent or stand for. Consider the following sentence, in which Meyers interprets die figure, garbed in black and wearing a white ruff, that appears to Hans Castorp in the chapter entitled "Snow": "This climactic image brilliantly symbolizes the opposition of Spanish-Jesuitical-funeral black against Russian-rack and knout-snowy white; Krokowski dressed in black to represent the unconscious against Behrens in white to stand for rational science" (p. 55, emphasis mine). In addition to allegorizing the stories in question, Professor Meyers is much given to drawing parallels — between the audior's life and the subject matter of his fiction, between stories by the same or different authors, and...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6571
Print ISSN
0278-9671
Pages
pp. 156-158
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.