The Doctors' Dinner Party
A witty satire of the medical profession
The Doctors’ Dinner Party is an eleventh-century satire in the form of a novella, set in a medical milieu. A young doctor from out of town is invited to dinner with a group of older medical men, whose conversation reveals their incompetence. Written by the accomplished physician Ibn Buṭlān, the work satirizes the hypocrisy of quack doctors while displaying Ibn Buṭlān’s own deep technical knowledge of medical practice, including surgery, blood-letting, and medicines. He also makes reference to the great thinkers and physicians of the ancient world, including Hippocrates, Galen, and Socrates.
Combining literary parody with social satire, the book is richly textured and carefully organized: in addition to the use of the question-and-answer format associated with technical literature, it is replete with verse and subtexts that hint at the infatuation of the elderly practitioners with their young guest. The Doctors’ Dinner Party is an entertaining read in which the author skewers the pretensions of the physicians around the table.
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