To Feel What Others Feel
How is it that people in search of healing were at one time able to experience the therapeutic effects of "animal magnetism"? The evidence suggests that those who went in for treatments we would now call placebos didn't feign their sensations but felt what they supposed others felt; they reacted as social beings. In one way or another, so do we today. But while the feeling of membership buoys us and may contribute to health, that is not all it can do, medically speaking. In this study a humanist looks at the placebo effect, taking into account both its history and its ambiguity and bringing out the more questionable potential of some health fashions, trends, and movements of our own time.
"No other contemporary writer, so far as I know, is at once so steadily rational and so profoundly humane as Stewart Justman. He has given us a number of books that expertly combine social and medical history, literary analysis, and compelling moral reflection. To Feel What Others Feel is Justman at his very best. By illuminating the social dimension of the placebo effect, he resolves the paradoxes and exposes the hypocrisies that surround it. This brilliant work can be of use to every thoughtful person who administers care to others." Frederick Crews, Professor Emeritus of English, University of California, Berkeley
"Stewart Justman, who is one of our national treasures as an intelligent layman confronting modern medicine, has written a book that is sure to provoke serious thought. His investigation of the social character of the placebo effect is a brilliant tour de force." Ivan R. Dee, NowandThenReader.com
Seeds of Mortality
2004 PEN Award for the Art of the Essay
This book is an unusual meditation on illness, on relations between patients and doctors, on difficult and eternal choices. It is unusual in the sense that this work is at once an objective examination of the world of cancer and an intensely introspective reflection . . . a rare combination. Justman’s familiarity with great literature enables him to attain another rare achievement, which is the ability to both draw on classical authors, his interpretation of Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilych is especially thought-provoking and on his experience, thus placing his own illness in a historical perspective. And finally, his witty, ironical and provocative style grips and delights the reader. One does not let go of this book easily. --PEN
Images of Others
Nathaniel B. Levtow
This book re-evaluates biblical texts traditionally identified as the foundations of monotheism and its associated argument against “idolatry.” In it, Nathaniel Levtow compares biblical polemics against the worship of divine statues with a wider range of ancient literary genres and ritual practices that targeted the embodied deities of political opponents. Levtow argues that Israelite parodies of Mesopotamian iconic cult were not unique expressions of aniconic monotheism but variant traditions of ancient West Asian “iconic politics” and assertions of Israelite political potency after the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon in the early sixth century BCE. Thus, he describes biblical representations of iconic cult as acts of social formation that signify the enduring power of divine images in ancient societies. By interpreting biblical iconoclastic traditions in this context, Levtow rejects the idea of “idolatry” as a universal or natural descriptive category and explains how Israelite authors composed authoritative classifications of religion that profoundly influenced ancient and modern understandings of divine image worship.
Gender, Sex, and The City
Rekhti, a genre of Urdu poetry with female speakers, focused on worldly experience, celebrates love and friendship, both same-sex and cross-sex. Through its ground-breaking analysis of eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Indo-Islamic poetics, this book reveals a vibrant society’s understanding of women as shapers of urban culture. Offering first-time translations of sparkling and funny poems, Ruth Vanita explores the poetics of play as a form of resistance to religious and literary orthodoxies and to the colonial enterprise.