Med.Inter.Rev. 2016, 107, 91-99.

Poets, doctors and rebels – psychosomatic aspects in their work (Oryg. Dichter, Ärzte und Rebellen – psychosomatische Aspekte ihres Wirkens)


Former Head of the Department of Neurology, St. Josef–Krankenhaus Zell–Mosel, Germany


Early traces of Psychosomatics in fiction and particularly in drama can be found in pathbreaking texts by Friedrich Schiller, Georg Büchner, and Arthur Schnitzler. These medical doctors pay close attention to the mind-body problem. They transfer their observations into poetry, creating world literature. As sons of doctors, they rebelled against their fathers as well as some of the dominant concepts of medicine and society.
Friedrich Schiller. It were the plays about freedom: „Die Räuber“ (1782) „Don Carlos“ (1787) and „Wilhelm Tell“ (1804) which established Friedrich Schiller’s fame; Schiller, son of a surgeon (Wundarzt), studied medicine at the military academy in Stuttgart. Before the successful premiere of „Die Räuber” in Mannheim, the budding regimental doctor has drawn up three academic studies dealing with philosophic, physiologic, and psychosomatic issues.
Georg Büchner. The playwriter and private lecturer Georg Büchner can be considered a precursor of Psychosomatics within scientific medicine. His father was a surgeon and the district doctor of Darmstadt. Georg Büchner’s fierce debates about the issue of the Biedermeier-attitude led him to become a revolutionary. His most important plays are „Dantons Tod“ (1835) and „Woyzeck“ (1836).
Arthur Schnitzler. Towards the end of the 19th century, the doctor, dramatist, and storyteller Arthur Schnitzler who was the son of a laryngologist in Vienna linked Literature and Psychoanalysis to represent processes of the inner life. These efforts were based on his works about hypnotic and suggestive therapies of functional (psychogenic) disorders. He developed with Lieutenant Gustl (1900) und Fräulein Else (1924) the narrative form of the „internal monologue” for the German language.
The article introduces 33 poets, doctors, rebels, for example, Francois de Rabelais and Johann Christian Günther, John Keats and Justinus Kerner, or Alfred Döblin and Rainald Götz. In the 20th century, poets and doctors like Harriet Straub, Charlotte Wolff and Hertha Nathorff, who were engaged in the women’s movement, joined them. These writers have a unique sensorium to perceive what might be significant for them as doctors and poets, what art and medicine are about, and what effects their lives because it affects them. Whichever observations and adventures they transform into literature: it is the medical work that provides experiences about life and pain.

Keywords: psychosomatics, literature, doctor-poets

Oryginal language: German

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