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Whitman and the romance of medicine /
Robert Leigh Davis.
imprint
Berkeley : University of California Press, 1997.
description
x, 190 p.
ISBN
0520207602 (cloth : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Berkeley : University of California Press, 1997.
isbn
0520207602 (cloth : alk. paper)
catalogue key
1348343
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Flap Copy
"Not only does Davis encourage us to re-value work that used to be dismissed as minor . . . he also places Whitman at a peculiar nexus of diverse groups, and diverse cultural practices, that turn out to be surprisingly exemplary of American (and democratic) concerns."--Tenney Nathanson, University of Arizona "This is a powerful and innovative study of Whitman's Civil War hospital writings. It offers the best reading so far of these challenging texts. . . . Davis makes one of the most persuasive and fascinating cases I've seen for the much-contested relationship between artistic representation and political representation."--Ed Folsom, author ofWalt Whitman's Native Representations
Flap Copy
"Not only does Davis encourage us to re-value work that used to be dismissed as minor . . . he also places Whitman at a peculiar nexus of diverse groups, and diverse cultural practices, that turn out to be surprisingly exemplary of American (and democratic) concerns."--Tenney Nathanson, University of Arizona "This is a powerful and innovative study of Whitman's Civil War hospital writings. It offers the best reading so far of these challenging texts. . . . Davis makes one of the most persuasive and fascinating cases I've seen for the much-contested relationship between artistic representation and political representation."--Ed Folsom, author of Walt Whitman's Native Representations
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1998-01:
Davis states that he "hammered out the rough shapes" of the ideas expressed in this curious, thin book in his doctoral dissertation. Reworked as they may be, the observations, which are fashioned from the recent work of a number of critics who state Whitman's democratic theory through the homosexual body, remain malleable. In five "more or less independent" essays, Davis claims that Whitman worked as a poet and nurse during the Civil War to exploit "a therapeutic alternative to the oppositional politics of his culture and its war." The author's texts are Drum-Taps, Democratic Vistas, Memoranda during the War, and Whitman's hospital journalism and correspondence. He argues that Whitman identified his work in hospitals as the most important of his life even though critics have long evaluated this work as marginal to his poetic accomplishment. Further, "the intimate enfolding of lovers ... the liminality of complex figures, the intermingling of opposed states" provided Whitman with vital literary and cultural weapons. Finally, Whitman built "the extra-text of the gay closet into the role of the wound-dresser" and cherished "the suspense of an unsettled, uncomprehended subject." The fifth essay--on Richard Selzer and medical narrative--is the most cogent. The originality of Davis's ideas requires a more lucid and developed presentation. For Whitman scholars, but not undergraduates. R. F. Cayton; emeritus, Marietta College
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, January 1998
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Summaries
Long Description
In this compelling, accessible examination of one of America's greatest cultural and literary figures, Robert Leigh Davis details the literary and social significance of Walt Whitman's career as a nurse during the American Civil War. Davis shows how the concept of "convalescence" in nineteenth-century medicine and philosophy--along with Whitman's personal war experiences--provide a crucial point of convergence for Whitman's work as a gay and democratic writer. In his analysis of Whitman's writings during this period--Drum-Taps, Democratic Vistas, Memoranda During the War, along with journalistic works and correspondence--Davis argues against the standard interpretation that Whitman's earliest work was his best. He finds instead that Whitman's hospital writings are his most persuasive account of the democratic experience. Deeply moved by the courage and dignity of common soldiers, Whitman came to identify the Civil War hospitals with the very essence of American democratic life, and his writing during this period includes some of his most urgent reflections on suffering, sympathy, violence, and love. Davis concludes this study with an essay on the contemporary medical writer Richard Selzer, who develops the implications of Whitman's ideas into a new theory of medical narrative.
Main Description
In this compelling, accessible examination of one of America's greatest cultural and literary figures, Robert Leigh Davis details the literary and social significance of Walt Whitman's career as a nurse during the American Civil War. Davis shows how the concept of "convalescence" in nineteenth-century medicine and philosophy--along with Whitman's personal war experiences--provide a crucial point of convergence for Whitman's work as a gay and democratic writer. In his analysis of Whitman's writings during this period-- Drum-Taps, Democratic Vistas, Memoranda During the War , along with journalistic works and correspondence--Davis argues against the standard interpretation that Whitman's earliest work was his best. He finds instead that Whitman's hospital writings are his most persuasive account of the democratic experience. Deeply moved by the courage and dignity of common soldiers, Whitman came to identify the Civil War hospitals with the very essence of American democratic life, and his writing during this period includes some of his most urgent reflections on suffering, sympathy, violence, and love. Davis concludes this study with an essay on the contemporary medical writer Richard Selzer, who develops the implications of Whitman's ideas into a new theory of medical narrative.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Whitman and Convalescencep. 1
"America, Brought to Hospital": Democracy, Homosexuality, and the Romance of Medicinep. 23
"On Both Sides of the Line": The Liminality of Civil War Nursingp. 43
Sympathy and the Crisis of Unionp. 72
Telling It Slant: Medical Representation in Memoranda During the Warp. 95
The Art of the Suture: Richard Selzer and Medical Narrativep. 118
Notesp. 139
Indexp. 183
Table of Contents provided by Blackwell. All Rights Reserved.

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