Laughter Part 2: Is It Safe To Laugh Yet?

James Belarde // “It seems to me that you can know a man by his laughter, and if from the first encounter you like the laughter of some completely unknown person, you may boldly say that he is a good man.” -Fyodor Dostoevsky, in Notes from A Dead House “A woolly mammoth and a saber-tooth…

Pain without Cause

Diana Rose Newby // …if the only external sign of the felt-experience of pain (for which there is no alteration in the blood count, no shadow on the X ray, no pattern on the CAT scan) is the patient’s verbal report (however itself inadequate), then to bypass the voice is to bypass the bodily event,…

The Smile: A Confusing Expression for Every Occasion

James Belarde // “Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.” -Thích Nhất Hạnh One of the biggest smiles I’ve ever flashed came after purposefully having my jaw broken, subsequently facing a six-week period where I couldn’t chew. While this sounds masochistic at…

Mothers, Memoir, and Medicine

Livia Arndal Woods // It’s Mother’s Day, holiday of breakfast-in-bed and/or reflection on the ways our society fails families. This Mother’s Day, I want to add a thought about how memoirs of motherhood cultivate an insistent thread of anxiety about medicine.

The Complicated History of the Visual Analog Scale: Part 1

Gabi Schaffzin // A few hours after knee surgery, a nurse or doctor might come into your room and ask how you’re feeling. They might show you a scale of 6 faces like this: Maybe a notched line like this: Or, they might show you this line. It will probably have two phrases on it:…

The Then and There of Transmasculine Pregnancy

The first epigraph above is taken from the climactic scene in Thomas Middleton’s play, More Dissemblers Besides Women (1614), in which a Page swoons and calls out for a midwife after rigorous dancing lessons. Cinquepace, the speaker, assumes a miracle, an upside-down world, a strange case, and that a woman must have impregnated the Page—all of which allow for the possibility a young man could be pregnant (5.2.224-29). The audience has more insight into this moment, however. In the first scene of the play, Lactantio recognizes the Page as a former lover in disguise, and the Page informs Lactantio they are “with child” (1.2.142). (Because the Page is given no names other than Page or Antonio in the play, I refer to them throughout this piece with they/them pronouns). Over the course of More Dissemblers Besides Women, the Page waits in vain for Lactantio to marry them, while the other characters perceive the Page as “sweet a breasted page as ever lay at his master’s feet in a truckle-bed” (1.4.100-3). Even after the Page goes into labor, Cinquepace is none the wiser and exits the stage “supporting the Page” (1069).

Roundtable: How Old Should a Doctor Be?

On January 6, 2018, Dr Haider Javed Warraich published an op-ed in the New York Times titled “For Doctors, Age May Be More Than a Number.”  In this responsive roundtable, writers Anna Fenton-Hathaway (English literature), Jordan Babando (sociology), and Benjamin Gagnon Chainey (French literature) consider the possibilities and provocations of thinking about how a doctor’s…

Review of Lindsey Fitzharris’s The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine

Livia Arndal Woods Lindsey Fitzharris’s 2017 The Butchering Art is a compelling medical biography of Joseph Lister, pioneer of antiseptic surgical theory and practice. Lister’s work, building on the germ-theories of Louis Pasteur, “Transform[ed] the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine” from a chaotic and deadly battle against seemingly inevitable infections to a more systematic and…

Two Babies, Two Fathers, One Pregnancy: Superfetation in Myth and Medicine

According to early modern gynecological manuals, superfetation is “a repeated conception”—a rare but real medical phenomenon when a woman who is already pregnant becomes pregnant again. The anonymous author of The English Midwife Enlarged (1682) responds to those who dispute superfetation, explaining that when a woman is “animated with an earnest desire of Copulation,” the “overheated”…