The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics

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University of Chicago Press, May 15, 1997 - Health & Fitness - 213 pages
Ill people are more than victims of disease or patients of medicine; they are wounded storytellers, Frank argues. People tell stories to make sense of their suffering; when they turn their diseases into stories, they find healing. Drawing on the work of authors such as Oliver Sacks, Anatole Broyard, Norman Cousins, and Audre Lorde, as well as on the stories of people he has met during years spent among different illness groups, Frank recounts a stirring collection of illness narratives, ranging from the well-known - Gilda Radner's battle with ovarian cancer - to the private testimonials of people with cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, and disabilities. Their stories are more than accounts of personal suffering: they abound with moral choices and point to a social ethic. Frank identifies three basic narratives of illness - stories of restitution, chaos, and quest. Restitution narratives anticipate getting well and give prominence to the technology of cure. In chaos narratives, illness seems to stretch on forever, with no respite or redeeming insights. Quest narratives are about finding that illness can be transformed into a means for the ill person to become someone new. Understanding these three narrative types helps us to hear the ill, but ultimately illness stories are more. Frank presents these stories as a form of testimony: the ill person is more than a survivor; she is a witness. Schooled in a "pedagogy of suffering", the ill person reaches out to others, offering a truth about living. The truth is a starting point for a "narrative ethics", as private experiences become public voices. Wounded storytellers teach more than a new way to understand illness; they exemplify an emergingethic of postmodern times.

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THE WOUNDED STORYTELLER: Body, Illness, and Ethics

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Meticulous explication of the significance and value of narratives of illness by a Canadian (Univ. of Calgary) sociologist who, as a survivor of both a heart attack and cancer, is himself a ``wounded ... Read full review

The wounded storyteller: body, illness, and ethics

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At the conclusion of At the Will of the Body (LJ 3/15/91), Frank (sociology, Univ. of Calgary) wrote that "remission society is new." Members of this group are those who, like himself, all live with ... Read full review

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