'What is it?' Illustration based on the novel 'Poor Miss Finch' by Wilkie Collins, 1872 (In private ownership)
Many writers of fiction and poetry have used epilepsy as a theme in their books, e.g. Isabel Allende, Agatha Christie, F.M. Dostoyevsky (who had epilepsy himself), Siegfried Lenz, Thomas Mann, Elsa Morante, Christoph Ransmayr, Christa Wolf [see also the Epilepsy Museum's literature liste .
In 'Poor Miss Finch' by Wilkie Collins (1824-1899), one of the main characters, the young man Oscar, has epilepsy, and his illness plays a major role in the novel. Oscar, who is engaged to the blind Lucilla, got epilepsy as the result of a head injury received in an accident.
Oscar's first seizure, which the first-person narrator of the novel experiences herself, is described thus:
As the words passed his lips, a frightful contortion fastened itself on Oscar's face. His eyes turned up hideously. From head to foot his whole body was wrenched round, as if giant hands had twisted it, towards the right. Before I could speak, he was in convulsions on the floor at his doctor's feet. 'Good God, what is this!' I cried out. The doctor loosened his cravat, and moved away the furniture that was near him.