Boswell's Clap and Other Essays: Medical Analyses of Literary Men's Afflictions

Boswell's Clap and Other Essays: Medical Analyses of Literary Men's Afflictions

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Boswell's Clap and Other Essays: Medical Analyses of Literary Men's Afflictions by William B. Ober, M.D. William B.

In this “cock to Aesculapius,” a distin­guished pathologist shows how simple medical analyses can be applied centu­ries later to reconstruct the scene and as­sign a more probable cause of disability or death.

The ten essays selected for this volume range from an investigation of Boswell’s repeated infection with gonorrhea to a critical examination of Plato’s account of Socrates’ death in the Phaedo, subjects both ancient and modern. Other essays include studies of the ailments of two medical doctors—William Carlos Wil­liams and Chekhov—and the disabili­ties of Swinburne, Lawrence, Rochester, Shadwell, Keats, Collins, Cooper, and Smart.

Documenting a wealth of physical and psychological symptoms that bear directly upon the writer’s work—“when there is a medical question,” Dr. Ober writes, “consult a doctor”—Dr. Ober diagnoses Swinburne’s masochism and penchant for writing flagellatory verse and facetiae as the combined results of anoxic brain damage at birth, sexual im­potence, and the exposure to flagellation at public school. D. H. Lawrence’s “dirty words,” he finds, stemmed from Lawrence’s psychological needs. Law­rence wrote Lady Chatterley’s Lover while tuberculosis was weakening him physi­cally, and the combination of his re­pressed homosexual tendencies and sexual impotence distorted his view of sexual relations. Rochester’s bisexuality and “double life” were at the root of his experience, celebrated in his poetry, of premature ejaculation, Dr. Ober shows. Dr. Ober also shatters two legends by proving that Shadwell did not die of self-administered laudanum and that Soc­rates’ death was not reported accurately by Plato.

A pathologist by training and prac­tice, more specifically a histopatholo­gist, Dr. Ober has spent most of his life trying to diagnose diseases by looking through a microscope at pieces of tissue removed from the human body by biopsy, at surgery or autopsy. By applying medical analyses, and evidence from other disciplines as well, Dr. Ober scru­tinizes selected literary subjects and brings to their mind-body problems new and often astonishing interpretations.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780809308897
Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press
Publication date: 08/01/1979
Series: Medical Humanites Series
Edition description: 1st Edition
Pages: 312
Product dimensions: 6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

William B. Ober, M.D., is Patholo­gist and Director of Laboratories, Hack­ensack Hospital, New Jersey, Visiting Professor of Pathology, New Jersey Col­lege of Medicine at Newark.

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