Sander L. Gilman (born February 21, 1944) is an American cultural and literary historian, born in New York. He is particularly well known for his contributions to Jewish studies and the history of medicine. He is the author or editor of over eighty books.
Gilman's focus is on medicine and the echoes of its rhetoric in social and political discourse. In particular, Gilman investigates the constellations of medical, social, and political discourse that emerge at certain historical junctures.
Gilman obtained his B.A. degree in German language and literature from Tulane University in 1963, where he proceeded to gain his Ph.D. degree, also in German, in 1968. He was a Professor at Cornell University (1976 - 1995), then moving to the University of Chicago for six years (1994 - 2000). He was then at the University of Illinois at Chicago for four years, founding its Program in Jewish Studies.
In 2005 he was appointed a distinguished professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences at Emory University, where he is the Director of the Program in Psychoanalysis as well as of Emory University’s Health Sciences Humanities Initiative.
In 2007 he was appointed Professor, Institute in the Humanities, Birkbeck College (London) and a Visiting Fellow of the new Institute of Advanced Studies, Warwick University, UK. He was president of the Modern Language Association in 1995. He has been awarded a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) at the University of Toronto in 1997, elected an honorary professor of the Free University in Berlin (2000), and made an honorary member of the American Psychoanalytic Association in 2008.
His work Fat: A Cultural History of Obesity appeared in 2008; his most recent edited volume, Race and Contemporary Medicine: Biological Facts and Fictions was published that same year. He is the author of the basic study of the visual stereotyping of the mentally ill, Seeing the Insane, published by John Wiley and Sons in 1982 (reprinted: 1996) as well as the standard study of Jewish Self-Hatred, the title of his Johns Hopkins University Press monograph of 1986."
He has examined Sigmund Freud, addressing the question of what role, if any, was played by Freud’s Jewish origins in his composition of the psychoanalytic corpus. Gilman’s thesis concerning this subject is that the prejudices of biology in the nineteenth century classified the Jew as being somehow feminine, a stigma that Freud sought to escape by carving out a scientific niche of his own. Licensed by his own brand of science, Freud could simultaneously lay claim to the manhood that the Viennese scientific establishment of the nineteenth century threatened to deny him, and also to the neutrality that was the warrant of its authority.
To make the case that contemporaneous anti-Semitism shaped Freud’s thought, Gilman provides a catalogue of the most egregious anti-Semitic stereotypes of the time and place, including straightforward documentation of certain anti-Semitic prejudices, such as the belief in Jewish male menstruation, as well as period depictions of anti-Semitic stereotypes in graphic media.
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