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Our Human Hearts

A Medical and Cultural Journey

Literature & Medicine, Medicine


Reflections on the cultural and biomedical understandings of the human heart

“Humans from ancient times have interpreted the heart in many ways: as the home of the soul, the seat of love, the place of wisdom and justice, the symbol of our vitality. No other human organ has had as many meanings attached to it.” —from the Introduction

Our Human Hearts is a nonfiction exploration of the meanings of the human heart as interpreted by two traditions: medical science, which has made possible dramatic cardiac surgery and sophisticated drug treatments, and the much older cultural traditions that view the heart as a repository for wisdom, courage, emotion, and the soul. Carter interlaces medical and linguistic information with the stories of four heart patients, each with different illnesses and different personal approaches to healing. Much has been written about the heart from a medical standpoint, but few experts have explored the human side of the heart by giving a voice to the patients.

Our Human Hearts will be appreciated by the medical community, cardiology patients and their families, and anyone interested in the meaning and health of the human heart.


Albert Howard Carter III is the author of First Cut: A Season in the Human Anatomy Lab and has a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Iowa. He is adjunct professor of social medicine at the School of Medicine, University of North Carolina.