Literatuur en Geneeskunde

Ziekte door andere ogen/Disease through other eyes


The last 17 years we have published on an regular basis about literature and medicine, mostly in Dutch.

1. Research
In 2006, the thesis ‘Distant lovers, about the relationship between literature and medicine’ by Sofie Vandamme was published. In 2009, two smaller projects were completed by Laura Prins and Wouter Schrover as a scientific internship about, respectively, hysteria in Dutch naturalistic novels and the doctor-author Richard Selzer.


In 2016, Wouter Schrover published his PhD about Euthanasia in fiction (Novels and Films)

In 2018, Anne-Fleur van der Meer published her PhD about depression in autobiographies.


2. Symposium books

Since 2002, seventeen books (in Dutch) have been published in connection with the VUmc public lecture on literature and medicine. The first book, ‘Symptoms of illnesses’, has been published by Lemma. The second book, ‘The language of feeling’, was published by Atlas. Since 2004, the books have been edited by Arko Oderwald, Koos Neuvel and Willem van Tilburg, and published by De Tijdstroom in Utrecht. Between 2004 and 2007, Cees Hertogh was co-editor. In 2016, Willem van Tilburg retired. Abel Thijs, internal Medicine VU Medical Center, took his place as editor

2002 (Lemma)

2003 (Atlas)

Books published

2002 Ziektebeelden (Symptoms of illnesses) Many essays about a lot of topics

2003 De taal van het gevoel (The laguage of feelings) Essays on psychiatry

2004 Pijn (Pain)

2005 Dokter worden (Becoming a doctor)

2006 De garderobe van de dokter (The wardrobe of the doctor) Essays about the image of the doctor in fiction.

2007 Schrijven tegen de tijd (Writing against the time) Essays about old age

2008 Aan de ketting (Chained) Essays about addiction

2009 Opname (Hospitalization)

2010 Besmet (Contagion)

2011 Ontspoorde cellen (Wrong cells) Essays about cancer in fiction

2012 Nieuw leven (New life) Essays about birth in fiction

2013 Het verwarde brein (The cunfused brain) Essays abouit braindisease in fiction

2014 Een zachte machine (A soft machine) Essays about the body in fiction

2015 Het laatste woord (The last word). Essays about death in fiction

2016 Het zieke kind (The sick child)

2017 Angst (Fear)

2018 Een wondere wereld (A wonderful world) Essays about technology and medicine in fiction


3. Other publications

  • In 2009, initiated by Arko Oderwald, De Tijdstroom also published the Dutch translation of ‘The House of God’, together with a booklet about thirty years of ‘The House of God’, called ‘Maison Dieu’.
  • In 2011, a lexicon was published, based on quotations from autobiographical stories by cancerpatients. In it, headwords will be defined which appear to be important in the perception of the patient or of the people close to him or her.


  • In English, De Tijdstroom published in 2011 Unfamiliar knowledge. Psychiatric disorders in literature, edited by Arko Oderwald, Willem van Tilburg en Koos Neuvel.



4. Writer on the ward

Authors are good at observing medical practice and the culture in which that practice takes place. VU Medical Center opened therefore the doors for three writers. They were allowed to participate on three different wards and asked to write a novel about their experiences.

The first writer who participated on a ward was Bert Keizer, author of ‘Dancing with Mr. D.’. He visited the Department of Neurosurgery and has reported about it in his book ‘Onverklaarbaar bewoond’ (‘Inexplicably inhabited’), published in January 2010.

In 2010 Anna Enquist visited Anesthesiology, which resulted in the novel De Verdovers, published in 2011. The book sold over 100.000 copies and was translated in several others languages.

Also in 2010, the Flemish author Kristien Hemmerechts visited the Department of Hematology. The novel Haar bloed was published in 2012.

2010 2011 2012


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