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

by Dr. William B. Ober M.D.

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 tenessays 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.

Download Boswell's Clap and Other Essays: Medical Analyses of Literary Men's Afflictions epub
ISBN: 0809314339
ISBN13: 978-0809314331
Category: Literature
Subcategory: History & Criticism
Author: Dr. William B. Ober M.D.
Language: English
Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press (November 1, 1987)
Pages: 312 pages
ePUB size: 1540 kb
FB2 size: 1745 kb
Rating: 4.1
Votes: 306
Other Formats: mobi azw lrf rtf

I'm sorry to have to disagree with the previous reviewer. I've read several medical/historical essay collections (e.g., Karlen's excellent "Napolean's Glands," Baden's (OK) "Unnatural Death", Sacks' entertaining books on cognitive disorders), and expected this book to fall in that genre. I ended up scanning through most of the second half of the book -- I'd just run out of patience. I just found it generally uninteresting.
The initial essay is interesting, but it feels a little creepy reading it (OK, he drank too much again, hung out with a prostitute, and (again) contracted a venereal disease. And, this time, the symptoms were...). Although, I must admit, the table documenting the 19 VD cases over 31 years is mind-boggling.
Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the subtitle: "Medical analyses of literary men's afflictions". I've no training in medicine, so the results of the "analyses" meant nothing to me.
Beside the terminal affliction of dullness, I have the following complaints with this collection: (1) It deals with uninteresting subjects: e.g., "Swinburne's masochism" or "Thomas Shadwell" -- when did you last read Swinburne or Shadwell? (2) It's dated: Most of the essays were written within a few years of 1970 - the essay on Keats and opium (1968) talks about the "current" popularity of LSD and other psychodelic drugs. OK, with some effort I can relate to that, but ...
These pieces were written 30 years ago, and were probably considered daring at the time. I recommend you go elsewhere.
This is an excellent book for various groups of readers. It provides wonderful insight into the lives of many literary notables. Dr. Ober looks at the their lives in medical, historical and personal context.The first essays are about the journalist James Boswell, and it's interesting weather you know who he is or not. It's a funny, sometimes sad, and fascinating essay on a Boswell who had repeated attacks of gonorrhea between 1760 and 1790. Boswell admits that he has problem with infidelity (possibly identified by the numerous children he had outside his marriage) but the treatments he endured are positively shocking. It clearly had an effect on his writing, many examples of which are provided. Dr. Ober includes "charts" on the patients illnesses and in spite of it's sometimes clinical weightiness it a charming and compassionate look at other lives in other times.Good for fans of histories, medical histories, or those interested in the very personal aspects of "literary men".