Narrative Aversion: Challenges for the Illness Narrative Advocate

Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 42 (1):50-69 (2017)
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Abstract

Engaging in self-narrative is often touted as a powerful antidote to the bad effects of illness. However, there are various examples of what may broadly be termed “aversion” to illness narrative. I group these into three kinds: aversion to certain types of illness narrative; aversion to illness narrative as a whole; and aversion to illness narrative as an essentially therapeutic endeavor. These aversions can throw into doubt the advantages claimed for the illness narrator, including the key benefits of repair to the damage illness does to identity and life-trajectory. Underlying these alleged benefits are two key presuppositions: that it is the whole of one’s life that is narratively unified, and that one’s identity is inextricably bound up with narrative. By letting go of these assumptions, illness narrative advocates can respond to the challenges of narrative aversions.

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Kathy Behrendt
Wilfrid Laurier University

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