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Medical Progress and Social Reality

A Reader in Nineteenth-Century Medicine and Literature

Lilian R. Furst

Publication Year: 2000

An anthology of nineteenth-century literature about medicine and medical issues. Medical Progress and Social Reality is an anthology of nineteenth-century literature on medicine and medical practice. Situated at the interdisciplinary juncture of medicine, history, and literature, it includes mostly fictional but also some nonfictional works by British, French, American, and Russian writers that describe the day-to-day social realities of medicine during a period of momentous change. Issues addressed in these works include the hierarchy in the profession, the use of new instruments such as the stethoscope, the advent of women doctors, the function of the hospital, and the shifting balance of power between physicians and patients. The volume provides an introductory overview of the most important aspects of medical progress in the nineteenth century, and it includes an annotated bibliography of further readings in medical history and literature. Selections from Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, Gustave Flaubert, Sarah Orne Jewett, Sinclair Lewis, Mikhail Bulgakov, and others are included, as well as the American Medical Association’s 1847 Code of Ethics.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series, The Margins of Literature (discontinued)

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-xiv

The aim of this anthology is to explore the literary portrayal of medical practice in the second half of the nineteenth century. The foundations of modern medicine were laid in the series of momentous discoveries and innovations that were initiated in the first third of the century and gained increasing momentum during subsequent decades. The introduction of...

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Introduction: From Speculation to Science

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pp. 1-21

"Far more advances have occurred in medicine in the last hundred years than occurred in the previous two thousand," the physician-writer Michael Crichton asserted in 1970 in his book, Five Patients (New York: Knopf, 1970, 45). While agreeing with Crichton on the substantive issue of the immensity of the changes, medical historians see them as starting considerably...

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1. An Introduction to the Ethical Basis of Medical Practice: The Hippocratic Oath and Its Successors

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pp. 23-38

The swearing of the Hippocratic Oath at graduation represents physicians' rite of passage into a profession with special prerogatives and obligations. The oath is a covenant, a pledge of trust dedicating physicians to their chosen task of curing or alleviating suffering, or at the very least doing no harm. Although it has over the centuries been reformulated...

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2. An Old Style Doctor: An Introduction to Selections from Anthony Trollope's Dr. Thorne

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pp. 39-73

Anthony Trollope (1815–1892) was a prolific writer who published over forty novels and many short stories. His output is the more remarkable in light of the fact that he also had a distinguished full-time career in the British postal service where his achievements include the organization of mail in Ireland and to Egypt. As a novelist he enjoyed considerable...

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3. The Cult of Pathology: An Introduction to Selections from Eugène Sue's Les Mystères de Paris

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pp. 75-88

Eugène Sue (1804–1857), though hardly read and little known today, was in his own time a highly popular writer. His most famous work, Les Mystères de Paris (1844), is an extremely long novel with a large cast of characters and a complicated plot. When it was first published in serial form in the magazine Débats between June 1842 and October...

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4. Blood-Letting and Septic Surgery: An Introduction to Selections from Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary

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pp. 89-106

Flaubert himself came from an eminent medical family; his father was for twenty-five years chief of the hospital in Rouen, the main city in the province, Normandy, where Madame Bovary takes place, and where his brother, too, was a leading doctor. Flaubert took special care to assure the accuracy of the details about the surgery Charles...

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5. Germs, Drugs, Diagnoses,and Cadavers: An Introduction to Selections from George Eliot's Middlemarch

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pp. 107-135

Although Middlemarch was published in 1872, its happenings occur some forty years earlier just before the British parliament passed the Reform Bill in May 1832. It not only abolished so-called "rotten" (i.e., corrupt) boroughs and gave votes uniformly to property-owners, but also stimulated a gradual series of further reforms in factory conditions...

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6. The Laboratory and Its Products: An Introduction to Selections from Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

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pp. 137-154

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850–1894), a Scottish novelist, poet, and essayist, wrote a number of well-known works including Treasure Island (1883), Kidnapped (1886), and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886). His essay collection, Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes (1879), is the product of an attempt to treat the tuberculosis from which he suffered by fresh air in the...

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7. Advances toward More Scientific Practice: An Introduction to Selections from Sinclair Lewis's Arrowsmith

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pp. 155-175

Sinclair Lewis (1885–1951) made his reputation with a series of satirical novels about aspects of American life. In Main Street (1920) he took on small town mores, in Babbitt (1922) business, and in Elmer Gantry (1927) religion. With Arrowsmith (1925) it was the turn of medicine. Though awarded a Pulitzer Prize for this work, Lewis turned it down...

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8. Emergency: An Introduction to Mikhail Bulgakov's "The Steel Windpipe"

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pp. 177-188

Mikhail Bulgakov (1891–1940) qualified as a doctor in 1916 but gave up the practice of medicine in 1920 to devote himself to writing. His best-known works are the satirical novella The Heart of a Dog, completed in 1925 though published in the Soviet Union only in 1987, and The Master and Margarita, completed in 1938 and finally published in a full...

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9. Telling the Truth: An Introduction to Selections from Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks

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pp. 189-211

Medical themes are prominent in his works: for example, cholera in Death in Venice (1911), tuberculosis in The Magic Mountain (1925), which takes place in a sanatorium, and syphilis and encephalitis in Dr. Faustus (1947). Most of the members of the Buddenbrook family are afflicted with health disorders of varying kind and severity: one exhibits...

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10. A Poor Woman's Plight: An Introduction to Selections from George Moore's Esther Waters

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pp. 213-222

George Moore (1852–1933) was a prolific Anglo-Irish writer who first wrote poetry and then novels about contemporary life. Esther Waters (1894), probably his best-known work, was, according to his own account, prompted by Moore's encounter in a London hotel with a maid who aroused his interest in the problems of women servants at the time...

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11. Hands-on Medical Training: An Introduction to Selections from Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage

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pp. 223-237

Of Human Bondage (1915) is, together with The Moon and Sixpence (1919), regarded as his masterpiece. It draws on some of Maugham's own experiences, especially in its portrayal of medical training, although the novel's hero, Philip, inverts the author's career path by first trying to become an artist in Paris before deciding to follow in his father's footsteps...

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12. A Woman Doctor? An Introduction to Selections from Sarah Orne Jewett's A Country Doctor

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pp. 239-266

A Country Doctor (1884), one of her earlier novels, has recently gained increased attention as a result of the interest in women writers. It is autobiographical in origin: Jewett's father was a country doctor, and she herself aspired to follow in his footsteps but delicate health following an accident prevented her from fulfilling this ambition. The novel's titular...

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13. A Shocking Discovery! An Introduction to Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Doctors of Hoyland"

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pp. 267-282

Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930) is renowned as the creator of Sherlock Holmes; less well known is the fact that he was a qualified doctor. Lacking capital, he had a hard struggle to get established in the profession; in The Stark Munro Letters (1895) he describes in an amusing way the difficulties of a young, impecunious physician, like himself, as he goes...

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14. Starting Up in Practice: An Introduction to Selections from Daniel W. Cathell's Book on the Physician Himself

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pp. 283-304

The Book on the Physician Himself and Things That Concern His Reputation and Success enjoyed extraordinary popularity when it first appeared in 1881. By 1902 it had run to eleven editions, and revised versions continued to be reissued until 1922. It is now something of a historical curiosity, valuable for the insights it affords into the realities of family...

Further Historical and Literary Readings

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pp. 305-310


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pp. 311-314

E-ISBN-13: 9780791491522
E-ISBN-10: 0791491528
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791448038
Print-ISBN-10: 0791448037

Page Count: 328
Publication Year: 2000

Series Title: SUNY series, The Margins of Literature (discontinued)

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Subject Headings

  • Literature and medicine -- History -- 19th century -- Sources.
  • Medicine in literature -- Sources.
  • Medicine -- Literary collections.
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