Illness and Image: Case Studies in the Medical Humanities

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9781412854931: Illness and Image: Case Studies in the Medical Humanities

The humanities in higher education are too often labeled as impractical and are not usually valued in today's marketplace. Yet in professional fields, such as the health sciences, interest in what the humanities can offer has increased. Advocates claim the humanities offer health care professionals greater insight into how to work with those who need their help.

Illness and Image introduces undergraduates and professionals to the medical humanities, using a series of case studies, beginning with debates about male circumcision from the ancient world to the present, to the meanings of authenticity in the face transplantation arena. The case studies address the interpretation of mental illness as a disability and the "new" category of mental illness, "self-harm." Sander L. Gilman shows how medicine projects such categories' existence into the historical past to show that they are not bound in time and space and, therefore, are "real."

Illness and Image provides students and researchers with models and possible questions regarding categories often assumed to be either trans-historical or objective, making it useful as a textbook.

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About the Author:

Sander L. Gilman is a distinguished professor of the liberal arts and sciences and psychiatry at Emory University. He is the author or editor of over eighty books, including Seeing the Insane and Jewish Self-Hatred. A past president of the Modern Language Association, he was awarded Doctor of Laws at the University of Toronto, is an honorary professor of the Free University in Berlin, and is an honorary member of the American Psychoanalytic Association. 


“This interesting and enlightening book frames medical humanities in a way that proves to be very helpful to readers. In particular, author Sander Gilman provides an historical account of a number of medical values and reveals how cultural and medical assumptions can elide and confuse our understanding of issues such as posture and pain. . . . This is a great book, and I would recommend it for graduate courses in bioethics, medical humanities, and electives for residents.”

—Nancy Nyquist Potter, Metapsychology

Illness and Image offers a provocative (re)examination of the ways in which conditions and behaviors have come to be portrayed as illnesses. Gilman’s exposure of the visual representation of topics from circumcision to death challenges contemporary assumptions about the essence of illness. In short, Image and Illness meets the standard we have come to expect from Sander Gilman. It deserves a wide audience.”

—Howard I. Kushner, Nat C. Robertson Distinguished Professor of Science & Society, Emory University

Illness and Image shows us that diagnosis, prognosis and various bodily interventions are not neutral undertakings but are rather deeply embedded in culture. In so doing, Gilman persuasively demonstrates that the medical humanities and health sciences—generally seen as separate and distinct—are intimately intertwined. Through nine case studies, he traces medical, collective, cultural, and self- imaginaries of bodily comportment, body parts and bodily states, highlighting their spatial and temporal contingency. These lucidly written and deeply researched essays interrogate how questions of health and disease intersect with concerns about authenticity, humanness, ability, identity, race and citizenship. This book is an important resource for health professions students as well as graduate and undergraduate students and scholars in the medical humanities, public health, disability studies, and cultural studies.”

—Sandy Sufian, University of Illinois-Chicago

"Illness and Image begs us to slow down this frenzied approach, using our minds rather than our keyboards. We need books like Illness and Image to make clinical work the intellectual endeavor it ought to be. Otherwise we do our patients, our society, and ourselves a grave disservice. We propose truths for our patients without knowing or understanding the etiology of these truths. Illness and Image allows us to examine even our most sacred conclusions before we accept them as unquestioned gospel. What better training could there be in the increasingly nuanced world of healing?"

—Steven Schlozman, PsycCRITIQUES

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