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Perspect Biol Med. 2010 Winter;53(1):121-35. doi: 10.1353/pbm.0.0135.

Telling stories about illness and disability: the limits and lessons of narrative.

Author information

1
Bioethics and Humanities, Upstate Medical University, 618 Irving Avenue, Syracuse, NY 13210, USA. gardenr@upstate.edu

Abstract

Autobiographical narratives of illness and disability are influential in popular and medical discourses of illness and disability, in part because these narratives represent illness and disability within a sociocultural context, intersecting with other categories of difference. Clinicians can benefit patients through a critical understanding of the formal and social conventions that shape illness and disability narratives and the effect these conventions can have on the lived experience of illness and disability. I analyze the 2003 edition of Lucy Grealy's Autobiography of a Face to illustrate these socio-narrative conventions, especially in light of an afterword that significantly revises the ending to Grealy's narrative. I explore the parallels between narrative conventions-such as the "recovery narrative"-and caregivers' expectations that shape the role of the "good patient," as well as the resistance to conventions of closure, represented by the "renegotiated ending."

PMID:
20173300
DOI:
10.1353/pbm.0.0135
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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