Medicine and Literature

For an introduction to the interdisciplinary study of medicine and literature, see G. S. Rousseau, “Literature and Medicine: The State of the Field,” Isis 72.3 (1981): 406–24.

Guides to Primary Works


Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database. NYU Langone Medical Center. New York U, 1993–2003. 31 Jan. 2013. <>. Updated regularly.

A database of films and works of literature and art, classical to contemporary (most are post-1800), that treat medical topics. The 2,957 entries (as of late January 2013) provide a summary or description of the work; cite and provide a hyperlink to an accessible text, reproduction, or video or audio version; and list searchable descriptors. Many records include a critical commentary that emphasizes medical themes. Records can be browsed by author or artist, keyword descriptor, and title; all records can be searched by keyword and through two special screens: Annotation Search and People Search. Well-edited and constantly expanding, Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database is the best resource for identifying medical topics depicted in English-language literature published after 1800.

Several additional works are included in Joanne Trautmann and Carol Pollard, Literature and Medicine: An Annotated Bibliography, rev. ed. (Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh P, 1982; 228 pp.; Contemporary Community Health Ser.). As in Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database, coverage ranges from classical to contemporary and includes some works from Western Europe, but the majority are published after 1800 in Great Britain and the United States. Organized alphabetically by author within period divisions, the 1,396 entries include publication information for an accessible text, a list of medical topics treated, and a lengthy critical synopsis focusing on medical themes. Works added in the revised edition are grouped in an author list after the twentieth-century division. Indexed by 39 topics. Literature and Medicine must be used with care since it includes some works only remotely treating medical themes, omits some important titles, provides much dubious critical commentary, and is vague in some of the topics indexed.

See also

MLAIB (G335): See the headings beginning “Medical” and “Medicine” in the subject index to post-1980 volumes and in the online thesaurus.

Relations of Science to Literature and the Arts (U6440).

Schatzberg, Waite, and Johnson, Relations of Literature and Science (U6445).