Cover image for The last physician : Walker Percy and the moral life of medicine
The last physician : Walker Percy and the moral life of medicine
Elliott, Carl, 1961-
Publication Information:
Durham [N.C.] : Duke University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
vii, 167 pages ; 25 cm
Dr. Percy's hold on medicine / Robert Coles -- The act of seeing with one's own eyes / Ross McElwee -- Why doctors make good protagonists / John Lantos -- From eye to ear in Percy fiction: changing the paradigm for clinical medicine / Martha Montello -- Prozac and the existential novel: two therapies / Carl Elliott -- Ethics in the ruins / David Schiedermayer -- Walker Percy and medicine: the struggle for recovery in medical education / Richard Martinez -- Now you are one of us: gender, reversal, and the good read / Laurie Zoloth -- Inherited depression, medicine, and illness in Walker Percy's art / Bertram Wyatt-Brown -- Pathology rounds with Dr. Percy: the modern malaise, its causes and cure / Brock Eide -- Walker Percy, reluctant physician / Jay Toolson -- Afterword: writing and rewriting stories / John Lantos.
Reading Level:
1350 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3566.E6912 Z738 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Walker Percy brought to his novels the perspective of both a doctor and a patient. Trained as a doctor at Columbia University, he contracted tuberculosis during his internship as a pathologist at Bellevue Hospital and spent the next three years recovering, primarily in TB sanitoriums. This collection of essays explores not only Percy's connections to medicine but also the underappreciated impact his art has had--and can have--on medicine itself.
The contributors--physicians, philosophers, and literary critics--examine the relevance of Percy's work to current dilemmas in medical education and health policy. They reflect upon the role doctors and patients play in his novels, his family legacy of depression, how his medical background influenced his writing style, and his philosophy of psychiatry. They contemplate the private ways in which Percy's work affected their own lives and analyze the author's tendency to contrast the medical-scientific worldview with a more spiritual one. Assessing Percy's stature as an author and elucidating the many ways that reading and writing can combine with diagnosing and treating to offer an antidote to despair, they ask what it means to be a doctor, a writer, and a seeker of cures and truths--not just for the body but for the malaise and diseased spirituality of modern times.
This collection will appeal to lovers of literature as well as medical professionals--indeed, anyone concerned with medical ethics and the human side of doctoring.

Contributors . Robert Coles, Brock Eide, Carl Elliott, John D. Lantos, Ross McElwee, Richard Martinez, Martha Montello, David Schiedermayer, Jay Tolson, Bertram Wyatt-Brown, Laurie Zoloth-Dorfman

Author Notes

Carl Elliott is Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Bioethics at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of A Philosophical Disease: Bioethics, Culture, and Identity and The Rules of Insanity: Moral Responsibility and Mental Illness .

John D. Lantos is Associate Director of the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Do We Still Need Doctors? and coeditor of Primum Non Nocere Today .

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Often collections of critical essays comprise scholarly works loosely organized around a central topic. But here Elliott (Univ. of Minnesota) and Lantos (Univ. of Chicago) bring together the refreshingly candid examinations of medical professionals who are sensitive to Walker Percy's penchant for blending the psychological and spiritual dimensions of health. The essays are generally free of critical jargon and informed by an acceptance of Percy's essentially religious approach to contemporary questions about meaning and purpose. In a notable example, physician David Schiedermayer ignores his scientific skepticism to address questions about assisted suicide, concluding "that many of these ethical problems can be better faced through the use of poetry and prayer." Other essays include Lantos's confessions of doctors who read fiction; a general summary of Percy's work by Robert Coles; Martha Montello's examination of medical training and Percy's Christian therapeutics; Elliott's review of depression, Percy's characters, and the overprescription of Prozac; Bertram Wyatt-Brown's review of Percy's influences; and Brock Eide's presentation of Percy's phenomenology of self through the Christian Gospels. These writers have closed the gap between the hard sciences and the soft humanities in an instructive and readable fashion. All academic and general collections. S. R. Whited; Piedmont College

Table of Contents

IntroductionCarl Elliot
Dr. Percy's Hold on MedicineRobert Coles
The Act of Seeing with One's Own EyesRoss McElwee
Why Doctors Make Good ProtagonistsJohn Lantos
From Eye to Ear in Percy's Fiction: Changing the Paradigm for Clinical MedicineMartha Montello
Prozac and the Existential Novel: Two TherapiesCarl Elliot
Ethics in the RuinsDavid Schiedermayer
Walker Percy and Medicine: The Struggle for Recovery in Medical EducationRichard Martinez
Now You are One of Us: Gender, Reversal, and the Good ReadLaurie Zoloth
Inherited Depression, Medicine, and Illness in Walker Percy's ArtBertram Wyatt-Brown
Pathology Rounds with Dr. Percy: The Modern Malaise, Its Causes and Cure Brock Eide
Walker Percy, Reluctant PhysicianJay Tolson
Afterword: Writing and Rewriting StoriesJohn Lantos