Literature and medicine: origins and destinies

Acad Med. 2000 Jan;75(1):23-7. doi: 10.1097/00001888-200001000-00008.


Literature and medicine is a flourishing subdiscipline of literary studies that examines the many relations between literary acts and texts and medical acts and texts. The author examines the historical connections between these two fields and suggests that the growth and decline in medicine's attentiveness to the power of words can be used as a marker for medicine's degree of attentiveness to the individual patient's predicament. The recent explosive growth in medicine's interest in literature and narrative is taken as evidence that medicine's swing toward the reductionist and away from the narrative has ended. Patients and doctors have reason to await the return swing of the pendulum-if not the turn of the spiral-toward a medicine that is both technologically and narratively competent.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 18th Century
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Literature* / history
  • Medicine in Literature
  • Medicine*