Biomedicine in museums

Biomedical memoirs

By February 13, 2009 No Comments

Although I don’t like Twitter, I must admit that it is an interesting ego-document genre. A written trace of daily life — a publicly available diary, easily written, easily forgotten.

Which made me think about the memoir genre, which is more difficult to write and less easily forgotten. Gore Vidal defined memoir as a story of “how one remembers one’s own life” in contrast to autobiography, which is “history, requiring research, dates, facts double-checked” (from his own memoir, Palimpsest, 1995).

Memoirs loomed large in 19th and early 20th century libraries and book stores. Then they almost disappeared. But now, after decades of oblivion, the memoir is an increasingly popular genre again. There are all kinds of memoirs, of course, but this blog has its gaze steadfastly fixated on one and only — the biomedical memoir.

In which formats are biomedical memoirs published today? Not much in book form, I guess. Maybe they come out as chapters (or part of chapters) in Festschrifts (is this peculiar genre still alive?). And what about memoirs on the web? Are there any memoir blogs? And then there are oral memoirs, of course. What about powerpoint memoirs? And interviews for radio and television?

What are these and similar narratives (and narrative fragments) telling us about the experience of doing science today? How are memoirs used by historians of the biomedical sciences? Does the memoir genre have a critical potential? And how does the biomedical memoir differ from biomedical autobiography and other kinds of biomedical ego-documents?

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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