Doctoring the South: Southern Physicians and Everyday Medicine in the Mid-Nineteenth Century

By Steven M. Stowe | Go to book overview

Chapter Eight
WITNESSING

In multiple ways—in school, at the bedside, at their most professionally expansive—physicians aspired to an overarching orthodoxy while invariably casting it in terms of self, locale, and everyday work. In all of these places and forms of practice, because physicians were such insistent writers of their work, they continually reinscribed the objectivity of someone else’s sickness within the plane of their own subjective “experience.” The case narrative was the physician’s most sophisticated way of doing this. It brought together the essentials: a doctor’s personal story of something gone wrong, peoples’ debility and need, and his efforts to set things right. These elements acquired explanatory power in the way narratives joined observant science to a practitioner’s self-disclosure, and, therefore, they were the most subtle instance of the homological relation of medical text and work. That is, narratives took their shape from the rhythm of practice and then validated practice by reproducing it as a text widely used by other doctors as both practical lesson and moral example. A close look at depth and variety of narratives serves to conclude this study, as these stories most fully capture the work-bound imagination of orthodoxy underlying physicians’ allegiance to their personal style of practice.

Examples taken from practitioners’ case narratives appear throughout this study, as illustrations of disease and therapy, as lessons learned and proof acquired. Prototypes of these stories took shape, as we have seen, in lectures, daybook notes, case histories, and physicians’ correspondence. Narratives were published as stand-alone items in medical journals, but they also appear in the midst of larger essays on pathology or topography. Compared to other ways of writing medicine, narratives not only were more ubiquitous but also persisted longest over time. As important, they linked easily to other forms of personal

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Doctoring the South: Southern Physicians and Everyday Medicine in the Mid-Nineteenth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Studies in Social Medicine ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction - Physicians, Everyday Medicine, and the Country Orthodox Style 1
  • Part One - Choosing Medicine 13
  • Chapter One - Men, Schools, and Careers 15
  • Chapter Two - The Science of All Life 41
  • Chapter Three - Starting out 76
  • Part Two - Doing Medicine 99
  • Chapter Four - Livelihood 101
  • Chapter Five - Bedside 131
  • Part Three - Making Medicine 165
  • Chapter Six - The Lives of Others 167
  • Chapter Seven - Landscape, Race, and Faith 200
  • Chapter Eight - Witnessing 228
  • Epilogue - The Civil War and the Persistence of the Country Orthodox Style 259
  • Notes 273
  • Bibliography 327
  • Index 365
  • Studies in Social Medicine 374
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