To... Comfort the Afflicted, Afflict the Comfortable

Topics: Nursing, Postmodernism, Nursing theory Pages: 17 (6140 words) Published: May 5, 2013
To... Comfort the afflicted, afflict the Comfortable

A Selected Critical Annotated Bibliography of Postmodern Thought and Nursing

By C. E. Betts
Professor of Nursing
Health Sciences
McMaster University
Hamilton, Ontario,

© 2007

– Granted we want truth: why not rather untruth? And uncertainty? Even ignorance? – The problem of the value of truth stepped before us – or was it we who stepped before this problem? – (Nietzsche, 1990, p. 33)


Although most agree that “postmodern thought” begins with Nietzsche near the end of the nineteenth century, it was not until the middle of the twentieth that one witnesses the explosion of literature, criticism, art, culture, architecture, and virtually everything nameable discipline, that would make heavy use, willingly or not, of the term postmodernism. There are conflicting accounts as to the origin of the term, Toybee has been suggested as has Ihab Hassan, Federico de Onis, Fredic Jamison and no doubt others. The answer to the question, who was it that first used the term is much less important than to what it was referring (it might well have been coined by several individuals independently and moreover each may have been characterizing a different phenomenon with it). However, this turns out to be a rather tricky affair to negotiate simply because the term has been used in so many ways, and to express so many different sentiments that it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to determine what it is, or what it means. Lyotard’s famous, or infamous, “incredulity toward meta-narratives” hardly helps the work of clarifying. Nevertheless, its popularity, both in academic and popular culture, at the mid-point of the twentieth century was rather astounding (on the strength of such philosophers, writers and critics as Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, Lyotard, Baudrillard, Derrida and others of course). It represented for many a much needed emancipation from the ridged strictures of modernity, the stultifying effects of consumerism and mass culture and the alienation/oppression of late Capitalism. Coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, Hildegard Peplau the first contemporary nursing theorist, or at any rate the first to refer to her work as theory, (nearly a century had elapsed between Nightingale’s work, which she never intended as a theory, and Peplau’s Interpersonal Relations in Nursing which was published in 1952) began developing her ideas in the 1950s. Following Peplau is a veritable cavalcade of theorizing, conceptualizing and philosophizing concerning nursing that continued through the latter half of the twentieth century, when postmodernism flourished (reaching its apogee perhaps with the Sokal Affair in 1996), and indeed into the early twenty-first, where postmodernism, as a coherent philosophy, appears to be in a relative decline. Perhaps then, as previously mentioned, it was no coincidence at all that contemporary nursing theory and theorizing emerged at the same time as postmodernism and continued to develop and diversify along with it. If so, one is force to wonder what effect postmodernism has had on nursing as a discipline, both theoretical and applied.

The purpose then of this assignment is to investigate the question, what is, or was, the effect of postmodernism on nursing. To address this aim I will examine 6 scholarly articles that deal specifically with postmodernism and its influence on, or relationship to, nursing. I will present an annotated bibliography that identifies, discusses and critiques these 6 papers. Glazer, S. (2001). Therapeutic touch and postmodernism in nursing: Nursing Philosophy, 2, 196-212.

Glazer’s preliminary target is therapeutic touch. As she tells it, Linda Rosa noticed that therapeutic touch was being offered to RNs as a valid practice of healing, that it was becoming popular as a continuing education course for nurses in Colarodo and moreover that it was sanctioned as such...
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