Hypochondria and the Struggle for Control

Sneha Mantri One of the best-known literary depictions of hypochondria is Molière’s medical play, Le Malade imaginaire, which is occupied with the struggle for power between Argan, the titular “invalid,” and those who surround him. One reading of Argan focuses on his victimhood, arguing that the character believes so completely in his own illness that... Continue Reading →

The Unseen Trauma of Medical Illness

Bernard P. Chang In the aftermath of life-threatening events, such as heart attacks or strokes, many survivors are consumed by protracted medical evaluations, treatment regimens and lifestyle changes—all with the intention of reducing disease progression or the appearance of future medical events related to the initial bodily threat. The massive medical complex underlying our modern... Continue Reading →

What Does Defamiliarization Make Happen?

Anna Fenton-Hathaway I learned the literary term “defamiliarization” years after it had upended a tiny part of my worldview. Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty (1877), narrated by the horse of the title, was the vehicle for that early upending. One particularly heart-rending chapter meant that for years I could not look at a horse without being... Continue Reading →

23andMe as Modern Day Wunderkammer

  Whether collected on journeys around the world, bartered for with tradesmen dealing in wonders, or obtained as a gift, the objects within Renaissance Wunderkammern spanned an extremely wide spectrum—from antique busts to horns that could cure any ailment. Paintings and illustrations of these rooms show off large spaces filled to crowdedness with a plethora... Continue Reading →

Edward Said’s Migratory End-of-Life Aesthetics

Bassam Sidiki In his influential work The Wounded Storyteller (1995), sociologist Arthur W. Frank makes a move that has been largely undertheorized: the application of postcolonial theory to illness narratives. “Just as political and economic colonialism took over geographic areas,” he writes, “modernist medicine claimed the body of the patients as its territory, at least... Continue Reading →

Menopause: The Female Mummy’s Curse

Daisy Butcher The nineteenth century’s fascination with Egypt reached its apogee in the Mummy novel—from Jane Webb Loudon’s 1827 The Mummy! A Tale of the Twenty-Second Century, the first book to feature a reanimated Egyptian mummy, to Bram Stoker’s 1903 The Jewell of Seven Stars, the period abounded with literary representations of the reanimated dead.... Continue Reading →

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