We are delighted to offer Medicine and Empathy in Contemporary British Fiction by Anne Whitehead (Edinburgh University Press, 2017) for review. Expressions of interest are welcome from across the medical humanities.
This book marks a critical intervention in the medical humanities that takes issue with its understanding of empathy as something that one has. Drawing on phenomenology and feminist affect theory, it positions empathy as something that one does and that is embedded within structural, institutional, and cultural relations of power. More than this, it questions the assumption that empathy is limited to the clinical relation, thinking about medicine as more broadly defined. Combining theoretical argument with literary case studies of books by Mark Haddon, Pat Barker, Ian McEwan, Aminatta Forna and Kazuo Ishiguro, this book also contends that contemporary fiction is not a vehicle for accessing another’s illness experience, but is itself engaging critically with the question of empathy and its limits.