Sub-Projects of the SNF project "Life (beyond) writing: Illness Narratives"
The project is interdisciplinary in nature in that illness narratives will be approached from the three different disciplines: literary and culturalstudies, linguistics and medicine.
- Enormous increase of illness narratives in the past thirty years.
- Autobiography studies: New debates and theories about the genre → new fields of inquiry and new genres: literature and medicine, disability studies, medical humanities, pathographies, autopathographies
Illness narratives and the impact of story-telling/the narrative act:
- Writing about the experience of being confronted with a life-threatening illness: "To relieve the suffering of the self" (Thomas Couser. Recovering Bodies: Illness, Disability, and Life Writing. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1997: 289).
- Telling one’s experience of illness: Linked to the continuously changing process of constituting identity/ies.
Representations of the (sick) body (foregrounding of the deteriorating body)
- What about the relation between this body and the self/selves? (→ Concepts of subjectivity/ embodiment, gendered body).
- What about the interface between autobiography and identity and the new insights from neuroscience (cf. Antonio Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness. New York: Harcourt, 1999)?
- What is the aesthetic impact of such literary illness narratives?
- In what ways do they address realms that are not expressed in everyday discourse?
Writing against death and transgressing
- Writing and being confronted with imminent death; transgressing limits of what one does not know (i.e. death):
- What effects does this position have on the writing and on the reader (cf. also Die neue Sichtbarkeit des Todes, ed. Thomas Macho and Kristin Marek, München: Fink, 2007)?
- What about empathy and affect?
- Writing about the experience of a terminal or very serious illness triggers a contemplation of the "unthinkable", which is the stimulus for a theoretical exploration. See the great number of illness narratives written by academics; these texts do not only give evidence of the experience of illness, but present complex theoretical explorations of the cultural and social construction of illness.
- How is the dialogue between personal experience and theoretical inquiry achieved?
- How are moments of disintegration, collapse and transgression described? ( → Cathy Caruth's trauma theory; trauma is not unrepresentable; potential of language)
- What role does medical discourse play?
- A corpus of German texts written by Basel medical students on a remarkable encounter during their internship at a GP + questionnaire
- A parallel corpus of texts and questionnaire in English by medical students at the University of Nottingham (Victoria Tischler)
- An additional corpus of texts written by doctors (experts) on remarkable encounters, published in medical journals.
Research questions: Illness
- How is illness conceptualized linguistically (metaphors, semantic fields, jargon, etc.)?
Research questions: Identity construction
- What linguistic strategies are employed to construct the identities of (novice/expert) doctor and patient?
- What other protagonists feature in the texts and how are they portrayed / created?
- How do the students address the dilemma of being a novice while performing in the role of an expert?
Research questions: The question of the text genre
- Do the texts have a narrative core in the strict (Labovian) sense?
- In what way is it possible to speak of narratives?
- What linguistic strategies identified in narrative research occur in the texts and what functions do they fulfill?
- To what extent does it matter that the text is an assignment written for an instructor?
- What 'text genre' are we dealing with?
Research questions: Cognitive issues
- Is there any linguistic evidence of ‘frames’ (structures of expectation with respect to norms, rights, obligations)?
- What type of metaphors are employed?
- What analogies are drawn?
Research questions: Cross-cultural comparison
- Do we find any evidence of cross-cultural differences in the construction of illness and identity when comparing the corpora?
Studie Reflective Writing von Medizinstudierenden in Basel und Nottingham