Versatile scholars or ignorant boors?
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Versatile scholars or ignorant boors? book
The arch-prototype of the professionally successful but otherwise ignorant physician is represented by Proust's 'illiterate' Dr Leontine Cottard, who practises in Paris during the days when diagnostic acumen was considered to be a 'mysterious gift' bestowed on a few chosen individuals. The Apollo-Aesculapius tradition portrays medicine as part of general and priestly knowledge, and doctors as men of arts, letters and magic. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, these versatile scholars provided an inspiration to writers of fictional works. The medical hero in Weir Mitchell's Circumstance, Dr Sydney Archer, clearly belongs to the versatile category. In some hospital novels, the entire medical staff appears devoid of even the remotest sign of any 'civilized' pursuits. When the medical performance of a versatile doctor is compared with that of an uncultured colleague, the verdict is generally in favour of the 'refined' individual, although at times neither of them is able to help the patient.