Medicalized Literary Criticism in Fin de Siècle Norway

Johan Scharffenberg and Henrik Dedichen as ‘Medics-as-Critics’

  • Silje Haugen Warberg


Medicalized literary criticism was a widespread phenomenon across Europe in the decades surrounding the year 1900. The term describes varied practices of literary criticism founded on medical terminology and imagery. Critics with different professional backgrounds participated in this type of criticism, often by connecting medical analogies to established notions of fin de siècle decline and decadence. This article explores the proliferation and various uses of medicalized literary criticism in Norway in this period, including a case study of the literary criticism and discussion performed by two Norwegian psychiatrists and asylum doctors, Johan Scharffenberg and Henrik A. Th. Dedichen. I argue that these ‘medics-as-critics’ responded and contributed to the medicalized literary criticism and, by extension, to the establishment and prevalence of certain illness narratives in the public sphere.

Warberg, S. H. (2019). Medicalized Literary Criticism in Fin de Siècle Norway. Tidsskrift for Forskning I Sygdom Og Samfund, 16(31).