Strange Cases: The Medical Case History and the British Novel

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Overview

Strange Cases is the story of the mutual influence of the case history

and the British novel during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Fictions from Defoe's Roxana to James's The Turn of the Screw and

case histories from George Cheyne's to Sigmund Freud's have found

narrative impetus in pathology. The writer of a case history faces a

rhetorical bind unique to the human sciences: the need to display the

acumen of a scientist and the sympathy warranted to the suffering

patient. Repeatedly, case historians justify their publicizing of

extreme, often morbid or perverse, states of mind and body by

appealing to readers to take pity on patients and to recognize the

narrative as a vital social document. Diagnosis and sympathy, explicit

rhetorical modes in case histories, operate implicitly in novels,

shaping reader-identification. While these two narrative forms set out

to fulfill an Enlightenment drive to classify and explain, they also

raise social and epistemological questions that challenge some of the

Enlightenment's most cherished ideals, including faith in reason, the

perfectibility of humankind, and the stability of truth.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Jason Tougaw is Assistant Professor of English at Queens College, CUNY. He is the co-editor of Extremities: Trauma, Testimony, and Community (with Nancy K. Miller). His essays have appeared in JAC, Auto/Biography Studies, and The Scholar and the Feminist.

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Table of Contents

Introduction : a story of two genres 1
Ch. 1 Is reading a condition? 23
Ch. 2 Science and sensibility : invasions of privacy in breast cancer narratives 61
Ch. 3 Narrating hypochondriacs : Jane Austen's fiction and three case histories 99
Ch. 4 Agents of insensibility : altered states in Victorian medicine and fiction 139
Ch. 5 "The story won't tell" : ambiguity and intersubjectivity in Henry James and Sigmund Freud 177
Afterword : medical agency and human remains 207
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