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A happy doctor's escape from narrative: reflection in Saturday
  1. Catherine Belling
  1. Correspondence to Professor Catherine Belling, Program in Medical Humanities and Bioethics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, 750 N Lake Shore Drive, Suite 625, Chicago, IL 60611-2611, USA; c-belling{at}


The humanities have, in their application to medicine, become almost synonymous with narrative. When medical education turned to ‘reflection’ as a means to nurture coherent and ethical professional identity, interventions tended to take narrative as their primary form. Even while promoting ‘mindfulness’ as complete engagement in the present moment, proponents of reflection sometimes subsume reflection under the category ‘narrative’. The author offers a reading of Ian McEwan's novel Saturday, the account of the thoughts of a London surgeon over the course of one day, attending to the novel's reflective and lyrical as well as its narrative passages, in order to suggest that, rather than grouping the various forms that constitute ‘literature’ into a single instrumental method for producing more professional and ethical doctors, it might be valuable to attend to the various modes that constitute literary discourse, of which narrative is only one.

  • Narrative
  • health professions education
  • reflection
  • English literature
  • literature
  • popular media
  • public health
  • linguistics
  • film

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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