Being Lister: ethos and Victorian medical discourse

J J Connor, J T H Connor
2008 Medical Humanities  
Stylistic analysis and rhetorical theory are used in this study to inform our understanding of impediments to the successful uptake of a new medical idea. Through examination of the work of the Victorian surgeon Joseph Lister, who was described by one biographer as suffering from "stylistic ham-handedness", the study provides insights into the difficulty that Lister had in explaining his theory of antiseptic surgery. Using three comparisons-Lister's scientific style in public discourse with
more » ... of his students, and Lister's scientific style in private discourse with those of both a surbordinate and a superior-the study suggests that the rhetorical concept of ethos played a major role in his communication difficulties. In this way, it presents a more nuanced perspective on modern presentations of "model" communications versus communication failures: that is, that problematic written discourse offers as useful a heuristic device as does exemplary discourse.
doi:10.1136/jmh.2008.000270 pmid:23674533 fatcat:7ukdkrsxmbha3kgbuvqi7mgbvy