Jacobson, Karen F.

Dr. Karen F. Jacobson is Lecturer in the curriculum of Comparative Literature at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has a special interest in Medicine and Literature and has made presentations at both literary and science conferences. Dr. Jacobson completed her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and M.A. in English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her B.A. in Psychology at Vassar College.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in Moby-Dick, L’assommoir, and Buddenbrooks: Interpreting Novels Through Psychological Categories
2005 0-7734-5983-9
This study uses the complex symptoms of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder to reveal new insights about three of the most prominent novels of the last half of the nineteenth century, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Emile Zola’s L’Assommoir, and Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks.

What may have seemed like a persistent idiosyncratic behavior pattern to Realists and Naturalists, has now been identified as a disorder with attributes that have been observed for centuries and are still difficult to treat. Following an in-depth description of the relevant components of OCD, the novels and their characters are analyzed in the context of this prevalent psychiatric disorder. Melville, Zola, and Mann identified increased anxiety in nineteenth-century society and they doubted the autonomy of human behavior. These writers applied their accurate intuitions of a psychological syndrome as a means of exploring the philosophical concepts of fate and free will and their relationship to control.

This work argues that the characters in these three novels constitute psychological case studies that can be applied to the understanding of OCD. It contains a literary analysis that provides insights into these literary masterpieces, and demonstrates the close interaction between medical science and literature.