Medical Examinations: Dissecting the Doctor in French Narrative Prose, 1857-1894

Medical Examinations: Dissecting the Doctor in French Narrative Prose, 1857-1894

Medical Examinations: Dissecting the Doctor in French Narrative Prose, 1857-1894

Medical Examinations: Dissecting the Doctor in French Narrative Prose, 1857-1894

Synopsis

From the crude battlefield surgery of Revolutionary times to the birth of modern clinical medicine, the nineteenth century witnessed impressive developments in the medical sciences and a concomitant growth in the prestige of the medical practitioner. In France this phenomenon had important implications for literature as writers scrambled to give legitimacy to their enterprise by allying themselves with science. Overflowing its traditional banks, medical discourse inundated the field of French literature, particularly in the realist and naturalist movements.

The literati's enthrallment with medicine and their subservient adoption of a medical model in the creation of their plots and characters have not previously been seriously questioned. In Medical Examinations, Mary Donaldson-Evans corrects this oversight. Exploring six novels and two short stories published during the Second Empire and the early Third Republic, she argues that there was a growing resistance to medicine's linguistic and professional hegemony, a resistance fraught with ideological implications. Tainted by a subtle- and sometimes not so subtle- anti-Semitism, some of the fiction of this period adopts counterdiscursive strategies to tar the physician with his own brush. Featured authors include Gustave Flaubert, Edmond and Jules Goncourt, Emile Zola, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Guy de Maupassant, and Alphonse and Léon Daudet.

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