Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Flaubert and parrotry

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 31 January 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:281
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

    When, exactly, did it become a sign of superior sensibility and intellect to decry the bourgeoisie and the bourgeois virtues? No doubt it is impossible to put a date on it as exactly as that of, say, the Battle of Hastings; but there is no doubt that one of the chief critics of the bourgeois mentality was that arch-bourgeois Gustave Flaubert.

    In his Dictionary of Received Ideas—which he started in 1849 and never finished, and which was not published until 1911, 30 years after his death—Flaubert makes ironical fun of the bourgeois clichés of his time, among which are many relating to medicine. He disliked intensely …

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