Medicine Is War: The Martial Metaphor in Victorian Literature and Culture by Lorenzo Servitje (New York, SUNY Press, 2021) 352 pp., paperback, $36.95


  • Katherine Voyles


‘We all of us, grave or light, get entangled in metaphor and act fatally on the strength of it.’ Lorenzo Servitje quotes George Eliot’s well-known line from Middlemarch in Medicine is War, his book about how a metaphor about fatality itself became fatal. I begin with Servitje’s invocation of Eliot not because it’s where he begins—he begins with Mary Shelley—but to signal from my own beginning that Medicine is War is a deeply literary book. It’s about novels, it’s about metaphor, and it’s about the power of literature to shape attitudes, orientations, and ways of understanding the world. How the military and medicine are interlaced, the language used to braid them together, and how those stories move through time (both in narrative and across the long span of the nineteenth century) are all concerns of Medicine is War.