The "narrative turn" in biomedical discourses has dominated twenty-first-century medical humanities, pursuing the premise that narratives of illness, including patient and literary narratives, contribute toward our understanding of illness because they encourage us to reflect upon lived reality and even to imagine events and experiences with which we may be grossly unfamiliar (Charon et al.; Charon; Oyebode; Halpern; Altschuler). However, an emerging critical approach to the medical and health humanities challenges the assumption that narrative is incontestably and straightforwardly valuable for understanding illness. Following the work of Ahmed, Keen, Bishop, Jurecic, Whitehead and Woods, and Whitehead, the article suggests that narrative fiction may not cultivate empathy for another person, but may draw attention to the limitations of understanding another's experience by encouraging us to look out for, and even to imagine, the multiple ways in which we experience the world differently to others. With a focus on the experience of dementia-related diseases—including Alzheimer's disease—in B. S. Johnson's House Mother Normal, the article shows that metafiction may not help us to empathize with others so much as it may problematize our ability to empathize in ways that are ethically valuable for an understanding of subjectivity, illness, and experience.


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pp. 353-369
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