Walker Percy brought to his novels the perspective of both a doctor and a patient. Trained as a doctor at Columbia University, he contracted tuberculosis during his internship as a pathologist at Bellevue Hospital and spent the next three years recovering, primarily in TB sanitoriums. This collection of essays explores not only Percy's connections to medicine but also the underappreciated impact his art has had-and can have-on medicine itself.
The contributors-physicians, philosophers, and literary critics-examine the relevance of Percy's work to current dilemmas in medical education and health policy. They reflect upon the role doctors and patients play in his novels, his family legacy of depression, how his medical background influenced his writing style, and his philosophy of psychiatry. They contemplate the private ways in which Percy's work affected their own lives and analyze the author's tendency to contrast the medical-scientific worldview with a more spiritual one. Assessing Percy's stature as an author and elucidating the many ways that reading and writing can combine with diagnosing and treating to offer an antidote to despair, they ask what it means to be a doctor, a writer, and a seeker of cures and truths-not just for the body but for the malaise and diseased spirituality of modern times.
This collection will appeal to lovers of literature as well as medical professionals-indeed, anyone concerned with medical ethics and the human side of doctoring.Contributors. Robert Coles, Brock Eide, Carl Elliott, John D. Lantos, Ross McElwee, Richard Martinez, Martha Montello, David Schiedermayer, Jay Tolson, Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Laurie Zoloth-Dorfman
Carl Elliott is Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Bioethics at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of A Philosophical Disease: Bioethics, Culture, and Identity and The Rules of Insanity: Moral Responsibility and Mental Illness. John D. Lantos is Associate Director of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Do We Still Need Doctors? and coeditor of Primum Non Nocere Today.
Acknowledgments ix Introduction/ Carl Elliot 1 Dr. Percy's Hold on Medicine/ Robert Coles 9 The Act of Seeing with One's Own Eyes/ Ross McElwee 16 Why Doctors Make Good Protagonists/ John Lantos 38 From Eye to Ear in Percy's Fiction: Changing the Paradigm for Clinical Medicine/ Martha Montello 46 Prozac and the Existential Novel: Two Therapies/ Carl Elliot 59 Ethics in the Ruins/ David Schiedermayer 70 Walker Percy and Medicine: The Struggle for Recovery in Medical Education/ Richard Martinez 81 Now You are One of Us: Gender, Reversal, and the Good Read/ Laurie Zoloth 96 Inherited Depression, Medicine, and Illness in Walker Percy's Art/ Bertram Wyatt-Brown 112 Pathology Rounds with Dr. Percy: The Modern Malaise, Its Causes and Cure Brock Eide 134 Walker Percy, Reluctant Physician/ Jay Tolson 150 Afterword: Writing and Rewriting Stories/ John Lantos 160 Contributors 163 Index 165