Shopping cart

The Tyranny of the Normal

An Anthology

Literature & Medicine, Medicine


DescriptionMost cultures ostracize people who do not fit within their norms. They pressure abnormal people to change their appearance, fix what bothers other, or stay out of sight—a pressure Leslie Fiedler has named “The Tyranny of the Normal.” This anthology examines the experiences of those who live outside social norms for attractiveness, size, and shape; it also explores the reactions of “normal” people to those who seem grotesque. Among the questions raised are who decided what is normal and abnormal; who has the right or authority to decide what efforts, if any, should be made to normalize someone; and who should pay for it—be it plastic surgery or the manipulation of human genes.

The first section includes essays and articles written by health care professionals about the treatment of those with eating disorders or physical deformities. Part two contains more than 40 stories, poems, and plays about three main groups of abnormalities: weight, including obesity and anorexia nervosa; height, particularly dwarfism; and deformity or disfigurement. Major writers from Kafka and Poe to Welty and Morrison explore the conflicts of their characters as they struggle with self-image and otherness.

One of the purposes of this anthology is to encourage those working or living with others outside the norms to be more inclusive and understanding. They will find this insightful collection a valuable resource.

EditorsCarol Donley is professor of English and codirector of the Center for Literature, Medicine, and Health Care Professions at Hiram College, Hiram, Ohio. She is the coauthor of Einstein as Myth and Muse (Cambridge University Press, 1986), and coeditor of Recognitions: Doctors and Their Stories (Kent State University Press, 2002).

Sheryl Buckley is an anesthesiologist in private practice in Cleveland, Ohio. She received her M.D. from the Medical College of Pennsylvania. She is coeditor, with Carol Donley, of What’s Normal?: Narratives of Mental and Emotional Disorders (Kent State University Press, 2000).