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Shame-to-cynicism conversion in The Citadel and The House of God
  1. Arthur Rose
  1. Department of English, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TH, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Arthur Rose, Department of English, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TH, UK; arthur.rose{at}


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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  • Contributors AR is the sole author of this article. Non-authorial contributions are noted in the acknowledgements.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement This research was done without patient involvement. Patients were not invited to comment on the study design and were not consulted to develop patient relevant outcomes or interpret the results. Patients were not invited to contribute to the writing or editing of this document for readability or accuracy.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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

  • Data availability statement Data sharing not applicable as no data sets generated and/or analysed for this study.