Liminal Masculinity in Richard Selzer’s Knife Song Korea

Journal of Medical Humanities 35 (1):85-93 (2014)
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The doctor in a foreign country is a recurring theme in physician writer Richard Selzer’s stories. In his 2009 novel, Knife Song Korea, Selzer returns to this theme, examining it in depth through the lens of gender. Selzer features the American military surgeon Sloane’s multiple border-crossings, namely, from America to Korea, from health to patienthood, and from sex-exploitation to love. Crossing those visible or invisible borders in the gender and race conscious contexts of medical profession and military in wartime Korea, Sloane finds himself liminally located among various masculine stereotypes. The mixed-race situation in the novel further pushes Sloane to realize the unbearability of the baggage of American manhood as represented in his profession. Selzer’s punishment of Sloane’s border-crossings seems to suggest that physicians, together with patients, are equally likely to be victimized by the macho norms in medicine



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