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*>J äg· Editor's Column The concept of story as a mode for thinking about our culture has recently come into widespread use. Sophisticated literary scholars have mined "narratology," while writers in religion, philosophy, psychology, history, the visual arts, and even science have warmed up to story as a means of rediscovering the narrative aspects of their fields and modifying the harshly technical elements in them. Medicine's relation to story is as old as the first case history, of course, though only a few people have investigated the connection. It was my reading of one of these studies, James Hillman's ground-breaking essay about the imagination's part in therapy and case history, that provided the initial inspiration for this volume.1 Thus it is that the first essays that follow here are concerned with questions about narrative form in clinical medicine. Anne Hunsaker Hawkins opens the discussion with a look at the nature of medical case history as compared to literary biography, especially in the artful merger of the two forms by the Russian neuropsychologist A. R. Luria. Neurologist Oliver Sacks, who honors Luria as mentor, has been called the finest living practitioner of the artistic case history. His reflections on his own "clinical tales" and "neurological novel" follow naturally from the Hawkins essay and are, in part, a comment on it. But not everyone is happy with such merged forms. Narrative theorist Eric Rabkin began an unanticipated controversy when asked to look at the potentially fictional aspects of an extended case history by David Barnard. Rabkin believes that its very form obscures some crucial issues, a position examined and partly rejected by David H. Smith in his consideration of narrative's philosophical and moral limits. What would Barnard, Rabkin, and Smith think, one wonders, of Rita Charon's imaginative program for her medical students? She asks them to write fictional, first-person accounts of illness and hospitalization from the patient's point of view. The section on narrative form ends, appropriately, with a short story. In fact, L. J. Schneiderman's "Sequel" demonstrates in both form and content the healing powers of the genre. As part of our announced commitment to the visual arts, this volume presents the work of the medically educated printmaker Eric Avery, whose work is literary to the extent that he uses allegory and satire. The prints provide a transition to the second half of the book, in which EDITOR'S COLUMN literary concepts related to story are found to be operating usefully in medicine. Angela Belli considers the traditional but largely unexamined belief that literature assists in healing through the function of catharsis. Jane Marston takes theory to the bedside in a philosophical yet practical discussion of metaphor in the care of dying patients. Then, just as Eric Rabkin does in part one, David B. Morris questions the easy alliance between literature and medicine. Looking closely at the tension between William Carlos Williams's poetics and medical ethics, Morris suggests some unpleasant consequences, at least in Williams's case, of bringing the writing of literature into the patient's space. Albert Howard Carter and G. S. Rousseau have contributed broader papers. They continue the study of literary concepts (mimesis, hermeneutics , catharsis, empathy, metaphor) in medicine, but they also offer theoretical models for thinking about the field to which this journal pays tribute, and, in that sense, they provide contexts for the previous work. In addition, George Rousseau has outlined methods by which we might reconstruct the history of literature and medicine and explore its future. Like the other essays in the volume, his combines stimulating theoretical implications with compassionate premises — always the mark of good work in this field. Joanne Trautmann Banks NOTES 1. James Hillman, "The Fiction of Case History: A Round." in Religion as Story, ed. James B. Wiggins (New York: Harper & Row, 1975). 123-73. See also Larry R. Churchill and Sandra W. Churchill, "Storytelling in Medical Arenas: The Art of Self-determination," Literature and Medicine 1 (1982): 73-79; Samuel A. Banks. Once upon a Time: Interpretation in Literature and Medicine," Literature and Medicine 1 (1982): 23-27; Eugene B. Brody and Judith F. Tormey, "Clinical Psychoanalytic Knowledge...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6571
Print ISSN
0278-9671
Pages
pp. vii-viii
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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