The IUP Journal of English Studies
Portrayal of Delirium in Wong Phui Nam’s “Last Days in Hospital”

Article Details
Pub. Date : Jun, 2019
Product Name : The IUP Journal of English Studies
Product Type : Article
Product Code : IJES61906
Author Name : Nicholas Tze Ping Pang, Sheba D Mani, and Jiann Lin Loo
Availability : YES
Subject/Domain : English Studies
Download Format : PDF Format
No. of Pages : 04



Delirium is a psychiatric disorder featuring disturbance of consciousness and cognitive changes, usually secondary to underlying medical conditions. It commonly occurs in hospitals, particularly in postoperative settings. Despite its frequency, its description in literature, specifically in Southeast Asian literature, is rare. This paper examines “Last Days in Hospital,” a contemporary poem by Malaysian poet Wong Phui Nam, as part of an interdisciplinary Medicine and Humanities module at a medical university. It explores the evidence for delirium from the poem and the sound imagery that further bolsters the diagnosis, and examines the synthesis of these two factors in contributing to the poem’s being a unique and interesting way of looking at contemporary portrayals of delirium in poetry.


Delirium—etymologically derived from the Latin delirare (i.e., deviation from a furrow or straight track)—is a disorder characterized by disturbances of consciousness that are accompanied by cognitive changes (Slooter 2017). This diagnosis is formalized in both the American Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) (APA 2013) and the World Health Organization International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Edition (ICD-10) (World Health Organization 1992). Delirium is usually caused by a myriad of medical conditions, and the treatment generally involves reversal of the underlying medical cause. It is more frequent than is usually detected by treating doctors, as 10 to 30 percent hospital admissions eventually meet the criteria for delirium (Siddiqi, House, and Holmes 2006).