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Books, Journals, New Media
March 5, 2003


Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor; adviser for new media, Robert Hogan, MD, San Diego.

JAMA. 2003;289(9):1170-1171. doi:10.1001/jama.289.9.1170

In On Being Ill, an essay written between her two most famous novels, Mrs. Dalloway and To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf asserts that illness, a human condition no less universal than "love and battle and jealousy," has seldom served as a theme for the literary imagination. Much has changed in the 73 years since she made this claim. The human body in pain has become a legitimate and even trendy topic for imaginative and scholarly discourse. A distinct literary genre called pathography has emerged. The academic discipline of medical humanities has arisen and currently flourishes. Contemporary doctoral students of British literature are far more likely to study Victorian representations or constructions of illness than they are to assess the works of Virginia Woolf's eminent father Leslie Stephen—or even those of Tennyson, Browning, or Arnold.