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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Medicine, Literature and the Arts

Some of the greatest art and literature in the world has some aspect either related to medicine as its theme or reveals interesting information about the social perception, treatment, or diagnosis of specific diseases at various points in history. Moreover, in an effort to cope with the often life-changing experience of having a disease or caring for a loved one, individuals write narratives, compose poetry, record the experience through photography or drawing, or develop other ways to express their emotions surrounding the event. Use the Health Learning Centers at Northwestern Memorial Hospital to explore these fascinating works. The resources listed below will help you get started.

Internet Resources

Medical Humanities
Developed at New York University, this site includes an annotated database of works of literature, art, and film relevant to the illness experience, medical education, and practice—fiction, poetry, memoir, biography, autobiography; literary, cultural, and social criticism; visual art; film; and drama. An international directory of scholars and programs in Medical Humanities are also part of the site, as is the blog Literature, Arts & Medicine.

National Library of Medicine: Online Exhibitions and Digital Projects
A collection of online exhibitions from one of the three national libraries in the United States. From anatomy, to smallpox, to bionics, to Chinese medicine, and many more, there is an exhibit here to interest everyone.

Wellcome Library for the History of Medicine
Visit this site to understand medicine and its role in society, past and present. Thousands of images are available from this source.


  • A natural history of seeing: the art and science of vision. Ings S. 2008.
  • Rex: a mother, her autistic child, and the music that transformed their lives. Lewis C. 2008.
  • Poster child: a memoir. Rapp E. 2007.
  • Epileptic. B., David. 2005
  • Different like me: My book of autism heroes. Elder J. 2006.
  • Faces of osteoporosis. Davis A. 2006.
  • Cracked: Recovering after traumatic brain injury. Calderwood L. 2003.
  • Finding your bipolar muse. Castle L. 2006.
  • In the land of pain. Daudet A. 2002.
  • Like sound through water: A mother’s journey through auditory processing disorder. Foli KJ. 2002.
  • Loss within loss: Artists in the age of AIDS. White E, ed. 2001.
  • Moonrise: One family, genetic identity, and muscular dystrophy. Wolfson P. 2003.
  • My story: A photographic essay on life with multiple sclerosis. Davis A. 2004.

Journals and Journal Articles

Medicine in Art

  • “Artworks, collective experience and claims for social justice: The case of women living with breast cancer.” Sociology of Health & Illness. Radley A. April 2007. 29(3):366–390.
  • “A brief exploration of neurological art history.” Journal of the History of the Neurosciences. Appenzeller O. December 2004. 13(4):345–350.
  • “Interior landscapes of mental disorder: Visual representations of the experience of madness.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. Schoeneman TJ. April 2005. 75(2):171–189.
  • “Locally advanced breast cancer in a 15th century painting in Milan.” Breast. Vaidya JS. February 2007. 16(1):102–103.

Medicine in Literature

  • “All this happened, more or less: thoughts on 'truth', the role of fiction and its potential application in mental health and psychiatric nursing research.” Journal of Psychiatric & Mental Health Nursing. Biley FC. 16(10):919-26, 2009 Dec.
  • “Degenerative dementias and their medical care in the movies.” Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders. Segers K. January–March 2007. 21(1):55–59.
  • “The disease-subject as a subject of literature.” Philosophy, Ethics, & Humanities in Medicine. Kottow AR. 2007. 2:10.
  • “Greek mythology: The eye, ophthalmology, eye disease, and blindness.” Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology. Trompoukis C. June 2007. 42(3):455–459.

Contact Us

For more information, please contact the  Health Learning Center  at 312.926.5465 or HLC@nmh.org.

Last UpdateMarch 21, 2012