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Shame-to-cynicism conversion in The Citadel and The House of God

Abstract

This article considers the dynamics of shame and cynicism in A J Cronin’s The Citadel (1937) and Samuel Shem’s The House of God (1978). The protagonists of both novels are forced into shameful situations. Their response to these situations is increased cynicism. This results in a feedback loop: cynicism begets shame, which, in turn, causes more cynicism. Drawing on Bonnie Mann’s work on shame-to-power conversion, the article suggests that the novels stage a shame-to-cynicism conversion, which anticipates possible links between cynicism and shame in medical education. The overwhelming success of both novels in shaping the popular imaginary of healthcare professionals means that this dynamic, far from being isolated to the novels, might speak to shared concerns in the education scholarship.

  • physician narratives
  • Medical humanities
  • medical education
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