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Fiction and Physicians: Medicine through the Eyes of Writers

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Fiction and Physicians: Medicine through the Eyes of Writers

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Fiction and Physicians is a fascinating collection of linked essays, brief biographies and literary reviews that relate to medicine in the context of literature
Fiction and Physicians: Medicine through the Eyes of Writers


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Fiction & Physicians is a fascinating collection of linked essays, brief biographies and literary reviews that relate to medicine in the context of literature (including novels, short stories, poetry and plays). The central focus is on (a) doctors who wrote fiction (b) memorable fictional doctors as described by mostly non-medical authors and (c) medical illness portrayed vividly in fiction. 

Part One looks at Doctors Writing Fiction, and starts by examining why over the millennia so many in the medical profession have put pen to paper. The author first looks at the Old Medical Masters, ranging from Rabelais and Nostrodamus to Oliver Goldsmith and Erasmus Darwin and then moves on to Nineteenth Century Physician-Writers to include John Keats, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and many others. In a similar vein, the next chapters cover the lives, works and inspiration of more recent Physician-Writers, including William Somerset Maugham, Oliver St John Gogarty, William Carlos Williams, A. J. Cronin Michael Crichton. Oliver Sacks, Ethan Canin, Khaled Hosseini (author of The Kite Runner) and various medical thriller writers that include Paul Carson, Tess Gerritsen, Michael Palmer and Robin Cook.

Part Two then looks at Fiction about Doctors, starting with Incompetent and Ambitious Fictional Physicians such as in Tristam Shandy before moving on to Heroic Fictional Physicians, featuring familiar figures like Doctor Zhivago. Chapter Eight discusses Fiction and Infection while Chapter Nine examines Fiction and Paranoia, with notable essays on Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World. The final chapter looks at Fictional Psychiatrists.

'Fiction & Physicians is filled with doctors, real and imagined, of every conceivable hue: the good, the bad, the deeply misguided. Dr McWilliams, erudite and entertaining, takes us on an exotic journey into the imaginations of doctors and doctors of the imagination. As often as not, truth seems like fiction, and fiction seems like truth. . .. Fiction & Physicians is essential reading for doctors, patients, and everyone who ever gazed in puzzlement at the medical profession and wondered: What on earth goes on in their heads?’ – Brendan  Kelly, consultant psychiatrist, writer and Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry, University College Dublin

‘A fascinating insight into the inner world of doctors in literature. Inspiring, creative and meticulously researched, Fiction & Physicians delves deeply into the question of why doctors write.’ – Juliet Bressan is the resident doctor on TV3’s Ireland AM and author of Snow White Turtle Doves and Entanglement.

‘This beautifully written and wonderfully engaging book carries us behind the scenes into the lives and work of writers such as John Keats, Chekhov, Arthur Conan Doyle and R.D. Laing who have given us some of our most precious insights about ourselves, based on their experience of medicine. Reading this book I found myself being guided by the author into an easy intimacy with these and many other writers that was both a pleasurable and revealing encounter.’ – Tony Bates, clinical psychologist, Irish Times columnists and author of Coming through Depression

To download sample pages from Fiction and Physicians click here 

About the Author

Stephen McWilliams graduated from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland in 2000 and is currently a Consultant Pyschiatrist at St John of God Hospital in Dublin. Since April 2001, his articles have appeared regularly in the Irish Medical Times, the Irish Medical News, Medicine Weekly, the Irish Psychiatrist, Scope, Forum and several other publications. His topics have included medicine, psychiatry, literature, history, biography and the arts. He also contributed Forewords to the recently-published compilations, The Book of Weather Eye and Weather Eye: The Final Year by his father, the late Brendan McWilliams.

Additional Information

Additional Information

Author McWilliams, Stephen
Editor No
Print Format Electronic, Paperback
E-Book File Formats epub, mobi
Paperback ISBN 978-1-908308-26-9
Hardback ISBN No
E-Book ISBN No
Date of Publication October 2012
Number of Pages 256
Illustrations No