Illness as Narrative
Publication Year: 2012
Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press
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This project found me. The ideas for Illness as Narrative emerged after my husband was diagnosed with cancer for the first time. They began to evolve with a recurrence of that cancer, the diagnosis of a second kind of cancer, and yet another recurrence. The experience of four surgeries and three trips through chemotherapy was his. My experience was defined by all that happened around his ...
Chapter 1: Illness Narratives and the Challenge to Criticism
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From the winter of 1918 until the spring of 1919, an influenza outbreak swept the globe, killing fifty to a hundred million people, as much as 5 percent of the world’s population (Barry 397). Despite the flu’s ferocity, for much of the twentieth century this pandemic nearly vanished from popular consciousness. Although more United States soldiers died from the flu than ...
Chapter 2: Life Narratives in the Risk Society
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As we have seen, there are many explanations for why and how illness memoirs evolved into a thriving genre in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. When science developed better explanations for disease and more effective treatments, personal stories of illness were displaced from clinical settings in the United States and surfaced elsewhere. With the growth of ...
Chapter 3: Responding to the Pain of Others
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While the experience of being “at risk” is newly recognized as presenting a problem for language and literature, pain has long been understood to resist expression in words. At its worst, pain is unchosen, extreme, and without purpose; it obscures memory, thought, language, everything but itself. How can one communicate such an experience? Chronic pain does not present ...
Chapter 4: Sontag, Suffering, and the Work of Writing
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Susan Sontag has done more than any other single writer to bring attention to how literature documents and shapes the cultural meaning and experience of illness, pain, and suffering.1 While Sontag’s work on illness assumes center stage in Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors, she wrote about suffering throughout her career, from On Photography, to novels such ...
Chapter 5: Theory’s Aging Body
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To ask about the function of criticism at the present time is to invite nearly as many answers as there are critics. The profession has traveled a long way from Matthew Arnold’s confident declaration in 1865 that the only rule a critic must follow is “disinterestedness” in order “to know the best that is known and thought in the world, irrespectively of practice, politics, and everything of the kind” (“Function,” 17). ...
Chapter 6: Reparative Reading
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In previous chapters, I discussed the challenges to expression posed by experiences of risk, pain, suffering, and even sympathy, and examined how personal narratives about illness present problems for dominant literary critical practices that are based in hermeneutics of suspicion. In her final book, Touching Feeling, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick labels interpretive approaches that seek to expose secrets, errors, and manipulation “paranoid practices.” She points out ...
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Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2012
Series Title: Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture
Series Editor Byline: David Bartholomae and Jean Ferguson Carr, Editors