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Title page for ETD etd-11222015-235920

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Mitchell, Lauren Ashley
Author's Email Address lauren.mitchell@vanderbilt.edu
URN etd-11222015-235920
Title Surgery, Sculpture, and Déformation Professionelle: A Surgeon's Encounter with Trauma in Richard Selzer's Two Koreas
Degree Master of Arts
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Jay Clayton Committee Chair
  • trauma
  • style
  • Literature
  • Surgeon
  • Doctor
  • Medical Humanities
  • Professional Deformation
  • Knife Song Korea
  • Rituals of Surgery
  • Korea
  • Richard Selzer
  • sculpture
  • surgery
  • war
  • emergency medicine
  • narrative medicine
Date of Defense 2015-11-23
Availability unrestricted
In this thesis, I consider the short story “Korea” and the novel Knife Song Korea, by physician and writer Richard Selzer to pose questions about how a surgeon’s professional technique, or surgical style, may be shaped by traumatic experiences in the operating room. Selzer's Korea stories were based on the journals he kept while working as a military doctor during the Korean war, shortly after completing his surgical residency. What we encounter through the disguise of fiction are versions of Selzer's professional autobiography, which resonate strongly with the daily experiences of being a doctor. Events of the stories may be recognizable for anyone who has had encounters working in a medical environment with limited clinical resources and a plethora of patients who are physically devastated by the severity of untreated illness. In particular, Selzer's writing draws attention to the process of déformation professionelle, or literally “professional deformation,” the term used to describe when one is only able to see the world through one's profession, in physician identity development. Through the Korea narratives, we see that this deformation occurs in tandem with the physician's frequent encounters with traumatic events, affecting his future surgical style.
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