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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
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    Juliet's Nurse

    Lois Leveen 9781476757445

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Shakespeare's Tremor and Orwell's Cough: The Medical Lives of Famous Writers

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Shakespeare's Tremor and Orwell's Cough: The Medical Lives of Famous Writers Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The doctor suddenly appeared beside Will, startling him. He was sleek and prosperous, with a dainty goatee. Though he smiled reassuringly, the poet noticed that he kept a safe distance. In a soothing, urbane voice, the physician explained the treatment: stewed prunes to evacuate the bowels; succulent meats to ease digestion; cinnabar and the sweating tub to cleanse the disease from the skin. The doctor warned of minor side effects: uncontrolled drooling, fetid breath, bloody gums, shakes and palsies. Yet desperate diseases called for desperate remedies, of course.

Were Shakespeares shaky handwriting, his obsession with venereal disease, and his premature retirement connected? Did John Milton go blind from his propaganda work for the Puritan dictator Oliver Cromwell, as he believed, or did he have a rare and devastating complication of a very common eye problem? Did Jonathan Swifts preoccupation with sex and filth result from a neurological condition that might also explain his late-life surge in creativity? What Victorian plague wiped out the entire Brontë family? What was the cause of Nathaniel Hawthornes sudden demise? Were Herman Melvilles disabling attacks of eye and back pain the product of “nervous affections,” as his family and physicians believed, or did he actually have a malady that was unknown to medical science until well after his death? Was Jack London a suicide, or was his death the product of a series of self-induced medical misadventures? Why did W. B. Yeatss doctors dose him with toxic amounts of arsenic? Did James Joyce need several horrific eye operations because of a strange autoimmune disease acquired from a Dublin streetwalker? Did writing Nineteen Eighty-Four actually kill George Orwell?

The Bard meets House, M.D. in this fascinating untold story of the impact of disease on the lives and works of some the finest writers in the English language. In Shakespeares Tremor and Orwells Cough, John Ross cheerfully debunks old biographical myths and suggests fresh diagnoses for these writers real-life medical mysteries. The author takes us way back, when leeches were used for bleeding and cupping was a common method of cure, to a time before vaccinations, sterilized scalpels, or real drug regimens. With a healthy dose of gross descriptions and a deep love for the literary output of these ten greats, Ross is the doctor these writers should have had in their time of need.

Review:

"English majors and medical students alike, not to mention laypeople of all stripes, will enjoy Ross's first book, a speculative journey through the medical histories of 11 famed authors. The project originated with individual articles, first published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, on the two titular authors, who now bookend eight other, chronologically arranged chapters (Emily and Charlotte Brontë share one). Examining the evidence available, Ross (a physician at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School) theorizes, in informed but accessible language, about what may have ailed these writers. The authors' personalities, as well as their maladies, are placed under Ross's microscope — Nathaniel Hawthorne may have struggled with social phobia, and William Butler Yeats with Asperger syndrome. His theories, such as the notion that Jonathan Swift's uninhibited satire was abetted by dementia, can go only so far, however, before coming up against the wildly different medical ideas of past eras. These differences do throw up such fascinating tidbits as the use of mercury to treat syphilis in Elizabethans like Shakespeare, or of 'mummy,' a medicine made from the dried corpses of executed felons, in John Milton's time. Ross's ability, moreover, to make the likes of Jack London, Herman Melville, and James Joyce come alive anew makes up for the inability to definitively anatomize them. Agent: Mary Beth Chappell, Zachary Shuster Hamsworth." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Synopsis:

The Bard meets House in John J. Ross's Shakespeare's Tremor and Orwell's Cough, an illumination of the medical mysteries surrounding ten of the English languages most heralded writers.

Were Shakespeares shaky handwriting, his obsession with venereal disease, and his premature retirement connected? Did John Milton go blind from his propaganda work for Oliver Cromwell, or did he have a rare and devastating complication of a very common eye problem? Did Jonathan Swifts preoccupation with sex and filth result from a neurological condition that might also explain his late-life surge in creativity? Were Herman Melvilles disabling attacks of eye and back pain the product of “nervous affections”, or did he actually have a malady that was unknown to medical science until well after his death? Was Jack London a suicide, or was his death the product of a series of self-induced medical misadventures? Did James Joyce need several horrific eye operations because of a strange autoimmune disease acquired from a Dublin streetwalker?

These questions and many more are answered in this fascinating untold story of the impact of disease on the lives and works of some the finest writers in the English language, as Ross cheerfully debunks old biographical myths, and suggests fresh diagnoses for these writers real-life medical mysteries.

Synopsis:

The Bard meets House in this illumination of the medical mysteries surrounding ten of the English languages most heralded writers
 
 

Were Shakespeares shaky handwriting, his obsession with venereal disease, and his premature retirement connected? Did John Milton go blind from his propaganda work for Oliver Cromwell, or did he have a rare and devastating complication of a very common eye problem? Did Jonathan Swifts preoccupation with sex and filth result from a neurological condition that might also explain his late-life surge in creativity? Were Herman Melvilles disabling attacks of eye and back pain the product of “nervous affections”, or did he actually have a malady that was unknown to medical science until well after his death? Was Jack London a suicide, or was his death the product of a series of self-induced medical misadventures? Did James Joyce need several horrific eye operations because of a strange autoimmune disease acquired from a Dublin streetwalker?

These questions and many more are answered in this fascinating untold story of the impact of disease on the lives and works of some the finest writers in the English language, as Ross cheerfully debunks old biographical myths, and suggests fresh diagnoses for these writers real-life medical mysteries.

About the Author

JOHN J. ROSS is a physician at Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. He lives in the Boston area with his family.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780312600761
Author:
Ross, John J
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Author:
Ross, John J., MD
Author:
John J. Ross, MD
Author:
Ross, John J.
Subject:
Medical History & Records
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary Criticism : General
Subject:
General Literary Criticism & Collections
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20121031
Binding:
HARDCOVER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Includes 14 black-and-white illustration
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.5 in

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Music » General
Biography » Medical
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » History of Medicine
Health and Self-Help » Health and Medicine » Professional Medical Reference
History and Social Science » Literary History » General
Humanities » Literary Criticism » General
Metaphysics » General

Shakespeare's Tremor and Orwell's Cough: The Medical Lives of Famous Writers Used Hardcover
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Product details 304 pages St. Martin's Press - English 9780312600761 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "English majors and medical students alike, not to mention laypeople of all stripes, will enjoy Ross's first book, a speculative journey through the medical histories of 11 famed authors. The project originated with individual articles, first published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, on the two titular authors, who now bookend eight other, chronologically arranged chapters (Emily and Charlotte Brontë share one). Examining the evidence available, Ross (a physician at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School) theorizes, in informed but accessible language, about what may have ailed these writers. The authors' personalities, as well as their maladies, are placed under Ross's microscope — Nathaniel Hawthorne may have struggled with social phobia, and William Butler Yeats with Asperger syndrome. His theories, such as the notion that Jonathan Swift's uninhibited satire was abetted by dementia, can go only so far, however, before coming up against the wildly different medical ideas of past eras. These differences do throw up such fascinating tidbits as the use of mercury to treat syphilis in Elizabethans like Shakespeare, or of 'mummy,' a medicine made from the dried corpses of executed felons, in John Milton's time. Ross's ability, moreover, to make the likes of Jack London, Herman Melville, and James Joyce come alive anew makes up for the inability to definitively anatomize them. Agent: Mary Beth Chappell, Zachary Shuster Hamsworth." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Synopsis" by ,
The Bard meets House in John J. Ross's Shakespeare's Tremor and Orwell's Cough, an illumination of the medical mysteries surrounding ten of the English languages most heralded writers.

Were Shakespeares shaky handwriting, his obsession with venereal disease, and his premature retirement connected? Did John Milton go blind from his propaganda work for Oliver Cromwell, or did he have a rare and devastating complication of a very common eye problem? Did Jonathan Swifts preoccupation with sex and filth result from a neurological condition that might also explain his late-life surge in creativity? Were Herman Melvilles disabling attacks of eye and back pain the product of “nervous affections”, or did he actually have a malady that was unknown to medical science until well after his death? Was Jack London a suicide, or was his death the product of a series of self-induced medical misadventures? Did James Joyce need several horrific eye operations because of a strange autoimmune disease acquired from a Dublin streetwalker?

These questions and many more are answered in this fascinating untold story of the impact of disease on the lives and works of some the finest writers in the English language, as Ross cheerfully debunks old biographical myths, and suggests fresh diagnoses for these writers real-life medical mysteries.

"Synopsis" by ,
The Bard meets House in this illumination of the medical mysteries surrounding ten of the English languages most heralded writers
 
 

Were Shakespeares shaky handwriting, his obsession with venereal disease, and his premature retirement connected? Did John Milton go blind from his propaganda work for Oliver Cromwell, or did he have a rare and devastating complication of a very common eye problem? Did Jonathan Swifts preoccupation with sex and filth result from a neurological condition that might also explain his late-life surge in creativity? Were Herman Melvilles disabling attacks of eye and back pain the product of “nervous affections”, or did he actually have a malady that was unknown to medical science until well after his death? Was Jack London a suicide, or was his death the product of a series of self-induced medical misadventures? Did James Joyce need several horrific eye operations because of a strange autoimmune disease acquired from a Dublin streetwalker?

These questions and many more are answered in this fascinating untold story of the impact of disease on the lives and works of some the finest writers in the English language, as Ross cheerfully debunks old biographical myths, and suggests fresh diagnoses for these writers real-life medical mysteries.

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