Dental Medicine and the Oral in Contemporary German Literature

A Software-based Analysis at the Interface of (Oral-)Medicine and Literature




Oral medicine, corpus linguistics, german contemporary literature, narrative research, dental anthropology


This paper aims to record and analyse passages relating to dentistry from over 100 works of German-language fiction. The analysis of more than 15,000 extracts and the search terms they contain provide us with differentiated insight into dentistry as a subject of literature and art. From an aesthetic, functional and pathological perspective, and in so many other ways, dentistry as a subdiscipline of medical science as well as the anatomical structures of the oral cavity are reflections of a very special field of expertise. Oral and dental interventions and experiences quite often have an impact on our lives and destinies. As a consequence, our teeth, and the oral sphere in general, carry meaning within society that goes far beyond the function of just chewing food. The image of the dental profession and the potential of oral power and strength have always been used in art and literature as a vehicle of transference and literarisation. The obsession with our teeth and oral cavities is a physical and psychological reflection of an evolutionary achievement that has taken on a special identity as part of the cultural evolution of our species. Within the connection between healing and behaviour, this identity is multifaceted and symbolises a variety of meanings, feelings and human traits. In this context, the basic dataset that underlies the scientific analysis of the topic consists of an individual corpus of contemporary literary fiction with citations of themes relating to both dentistry and the extended oral dimension. Using a software specifically designed to search for and record terms relating to both dentistry and the oral cavity in works of literary fiction as well as a classification developed for the purpose of manually coding the citations and search terms, the paper attempts to position the results of the analysis in terms of their extended meaningfulness and the valuation of literature within the paradigm of dentistry and the oral sphere in human existence.




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