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The Autobiographical Shoulder of Ernest Amory Codman: Crafting Medical Meaning in the 20th Century

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-423
Number of pages30
JournalBulletin of the History of Medicine
Issue number3
Early online dateSep 2016
Accepted/In press17 Sep 2015
E-pub ahead of printSep 2016
Published1 Sep 2016


King's Authors


This essay offers a reconsideration of the historical significance of Ernest Amory Codman’s autobiographical preface to his 1934 text "The Shoulder, Rupture of the Supraspinatus Tendon and Other Lesions on or about the Subacromial Bursa" and its reception, in its own time and at the end of the twentieth century. It concentrates on the aesthetics of identity and the ways in which these are woven into the political, professional, and cultural contexts of these two periods. It argues finally that Codman’s style of life writing, both in the autobiography and throughout his texts, served as an important historical actor that more generally demonstrates the possibilities in approaching the history of medicine from aesthetic angles. In this way, it also calls for a tabling of the more canonical concerns about the American medical profession in the twentieth century in order to focus more empirically on questions concerning the development of medical meaning more broadly conceived.

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