The Body in the Library: A Literary History of Modern Medicine

  • ISBN 9781859845349
The Body in the Library is a unique tour of the history of medicine and its practitioners. It provides a nuanced and realistic picture of how medicine and society have abetted and thwarted each other ever since the lawyers behind the French Revolution banished the clergy and replaced them with doctors, priests of the body. But is that the right way to regard a profession that was once rough trade and arcane learning, that relishes the thespian as much as the white coat and which, for a long time, saw itself as a branch of criminology. Ranging from Charles Dickens to Oliver Sacks, Anton Chekhov to Raymond Queneau, Fanny Burney to Virginia Woolf, Miguel Torga to Guido Ceronetti, The Body in the Library is an anthology of poems, stories, journal entries, Socratic dialogue, table-talk, clinical vignettes, aphorisms, many of them written by doctor-writers themselves, which attempt to answer that question. Engaging and provocative, philosophical and instructive, intermittently funny and sometimes appalling, this anthology sets out to stimulate and entertain.
With an acerbic introduction and witty contextual preface to each account, it will educate both patients and doctors curious to know more about the historical dimensions of medical practice. Armed with a first-hand experience of liberal medicine and knowledge of several languages, Iain Bamforth has scoured the literatures of Europe to provide a well-rounded and cross-cultural sense of what it means to be a doctor entering the twenty-first century.
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