Working Bibliography in Narrative and Medicine

AIDS Narratives

Jones, Therese. 1994. Sharing the delirium : second generation AIDS plays and performances. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Kushner, Tony. 1992. Angels in America: N.Hern Books.


Foucault, Michel. 1973. The Birth of the Clinic: an Archaeology of Medical Perception. Translated by A. M. Sheridan Smith. New York: Vintage Books.

Foucault, Michel. 1990. The history of sexuality. Volume 1, An introduction. Translated by Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage.

Foucault, Michel. 1995. Discipline and punish: the birth of the prison. Translated by Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage Books.

Frank, Arthur W. 1995. The wounded storyteller: body, illness, and ethics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Frank approaches illness narratives from a stance of activism rather than passivity or “vicitimization.” Rather than marginalization and exclusion, illness can be used to spur a kind of communal boding. In this capacity, medical narratives can appropriate postmodernism’s resistance to a fixed identity to for productive ends. The wounded storyteller and the wounded become two sides of the same coin, reflecting the ethical imperative of sharing one’s story of illness.

Frank, Arthur W. 1998. “Stories of illness as care of the self: a Foucauldian dialogue.” Health: no. 2 (3):329-348. doi: 10.1177/136345939800200304.

Frank complicates the evocation of personal medical narratives as he considers them through the Foucauldian notion of the “care of the self.” He explores the ambiguity between self-actualization and (re)inscription of the powers structures at work in expressing one’s illness narrative as an agency of self-improvement. This framework can be helpful in exploring the less obvious structures at work in a medical narrative, whether clinical power or individual subjectivity. [??? Besides the obvious help for shutter island, this is what it opened up for me—to always see both sides]

Morris, David B. 1998. Illness and Culture in the Postmodern Age: University of California Press.

Morris traces the intersections of biology and culture from the post-World War Two era until the late nineties. Working through the lens of postmodernism, Morris challenges the strictly biomedical construction of illness to include the social dimension and argues that illness is a more complex phenomenon than the modernist machine model or dysfunction and repair. True to the spirit of postmodern thought, Morris advocates a polyvalent perspective of illness to highlight multiple aspects of its truth.

Petersen, Alan R., and Robin Bunton. 1997. Foucault, health and medicine. London: Routledge.

An excellent collection of essays which apply Foucault to health and medicine. This text exemplifies the applicability of works like History of Sexuality and The Birth of the Clinic to modern medical contexts creating a productive framework by which to the contextualize the discourse involved in medical narratives.

Rose, Nikolas S. 2007. Politics of life itself: biomedicine, power, and subjectivity in the twenty-first century. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Rose examines recent developments in biomedicine to explore the politicizing of health and the body. Counter to many posthumanist theorists, Rose argues that we are becoming more biological rather than less. He suggests that biomedical gaze is shifting from an expansive macro vision of life to a molecular one and that we are moving into a medicinal mode of enhancement rather than treatment.

Scarry, Elaine. 1985. The body in pain: the making and unmaking of the world: Oxford University Press.

Perhaps the most oft cited humanities text on pain. Scary argues that the body in pain subtends truth. Embodied suffering gives meaning and verifies. While she considers pain within the context of war and torture, this text is useful to any consideration of pain in medical narratives.

Sontag, Susan. 1979. Illness as metaphor. 1st Vintage Books edition. ed. New York: Vintage Books.

Sontag explorers the modern mythology behind illness, specifically cancer and tuberculosis. Sontag argues against the use of metaphor in the description of disease as the pejorative connotations attached to the figurative language ends up becoming oppressed and identified with disease’s connotations and cultural constructions.

Squier, Susan M. 2004. Liminal lives: imagining the human at the frontiers of biomedicine. Durham: Duke University Press.

Fictional Narratives

Gorsky, Susan Rubinow. 1999. “”I’ll cry myself sick”: illness in Wuthering Heights.” Literature and Medicine no. 18 (2):173-91.

Hawkins, Anne Hunsaker, and Marilyn Chandler McEntyre. 2000. Teaching literature and medicine. New York: Modern Language Association.

Pamboukian, Sylvia A. 2012. Doctoring the novel: medicine and quackery from Shelley to Doyle. Athens: Ohio University Press.
[ not sure about this as it is more about medical discourse represented in 19th century lit]

Rowe, Michael. 2002. “Metamorphosis: defending the human.” Literature and medicine no. 21 (2):264-80.

Tolstoy, Leo. 1981. The death of Ivan Ilyich. Translated by Lynn Solotaroff. Toronto; New York: Bantam books.

Graphic Medicine & Comics and Narrative

Chute, Hillary. 2008. “Comics as Literature? Reading Graphic Narrative.” PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America no. 123 (2):452-465.

Chute situates graphic narrative within critical literary theory. Her primary focus is nonfiction comics in relation to historicity and how they can expand the possibilities of representing time. This work provides helpful theory and examples of close-reading that can aid in the study of graphic medical narratives.

Eisner, Will. 2008. Comics and Sequential Art: Principles and Practices from the Legendary Cartoonist, The Will Eisner library. New York: W.W. Norton.

Green, Michael J., and Kimberly R. Myers. 2010. “Graphic Medicine: Use of Comics in Medical Education and Patient Care.” BMJ: British Medical Journal (Overseas & Retired Doctors Edition) no. 340 (7746):574-577. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c863.

McCloud, Scott. 1994. Understanding Comics: the Invisible Art. New York: HarperPerennial.

This self-reflexive graphic text lays out the fundamentals for comics theory. McCloud emphasizes the unique qualities of the meeting such as “closure” An essential and accessible text for understanding graphic narratives.

Squier, Susan M. 2008. “Literature and Medicine, Future Tense: Making it Graphic.” Literature & Medicine no. 27 (2):124-152.

Squier, Susan M. 2008. “So Long as They Grow Out of It: Comics, The Discourse of Developmental Normalcy, and Disability.” Journal of Medical Humanities no. 29 (2):71-88. doi: 10.1007/s10912-008-9057-1.

Williams, Ian. 2012. Graphic Medicine 2010 [cited 25 August 2012]. Available from

Williams, Ian C M. 2012. “Graphic medicine: comics as medical narrative.” Medical Humanities. doi: 10.1136/medhum-2011-010093.

Narrative Theory

Aull, Felice. 2005. Telling and Listening: Constraints and Opportunities. Ohio State University Press.

Bal, Mieke. 1985. Narratology: introduction to the theory of narrative. Toronto; Buffalo: University of Toronto Press.

Bal’s Narratology frequently appears in undergraduate courses in narratology as it provides comprehensive survey of the study of narrative. Bal introduces a solid foundation of formalist theory as a starting point to understand more contemporary schools of thought.

Barry, Peter. 2002. Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory: Manchester University Press.

Barry provides an accessible survey of literary and critical theory, in addition to having a useful section on narratology which summarizes much of Genette’s Narrative Discourse. This text can help those not as familiar with concepts such as postmodernism and deconstruction that so often appear in medical narrative criticism.

Brody, Howard. 2002. Stories of Sickness: Oxford University Press, USA.

Charon, Rita. 2001. “Narrative medicine: A model for empathy, reflection, profession, and trust.” The Journal of the American Medical Association no. 286 (15):1897-1902. doi: 10.1001/jama.286.15.1897.

Charon, Rita. 2006. Narrative medicine: honoring the stories of illness. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

Perhaps the central text in the emerging field of narrative medicine. Charon describes the justification for and the theory and praxis of incorporating narrative and literary theory in medicine. This text contains and comments on numerous medical narratives from patients, clinicians, medical students, families, and fictional accounts such as Tolstoy.

Charon, Rita. 2006. “The self-telling body.” Narrative Inquiry no. 16 (1):191-200.

Charon, Rita, and Martha Montello. 2002. Stories matter: the role of narrative in medical ethics. New York: Routledge.

This collections of essays considers narrative theory as a necessary addition to traditional moral theory in bioethics. The authors included are of diverse intellectual and medical disciplines, each providing a unique lens by which to read medical narratives.

Delvecchio Good, Mary-Jo. 1998. American Medicine: The quest for competence. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Dowling, William C. 2011. Ricoeur on time and narrative: an introduction to Temps et récit. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press.

A helpful introduction and summary of Paul Ricouer’s landmark Time and Narrative series. This text is particularly useful as it demystifies what many would find to be a challenging philosophical study of narratology. As Ricouer’s is so frequently cited in medical and sociological narrative [and anthro?], this introduction proves to be a helpful reference.

Greenhalgh, Trisha, and Brian Hurwitz. 1999. “Why study narrative?” British Journal of Medicine no. 318 (7175):48-50. doi: 10.1136/bmj.318.7175.48.

A clear and concise summary of the importance of narrative in medicine. Greenhalgh and Hurwitz point out the reductionist tendencies in traditional diagnostic narrative that tend to look for the expected, which can, in turn, dismiss potentially critical details

Genette, Gérard. 1980. Narrative discourse: an essay in method. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

Genette takes a structuralist approach to explicate the narratological concepts utilizing Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past along with other famous works. He outlines concepts such as time, frequency, mood, voice and distinguishes terms such as story/plot and mimesis/deigesis. This proves to be an excellent resource to gain a deeper understanding of more specific narrative techniques and devices.

Hawkins, Anne Hunsaker. 1993. Reconstructing illness: studies in pathography. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press.

In Reconstructing Illness, Hawkins conceptualizes patient “pathographies” that, in contrast to medical charts, convey the human experience of illness rather than the pathology. Pathographies reconfigure illness to impose the meaning it has had on the person’s life. This book is helpful as it historically situates the movement of medical pathographies from their origin in religious testimonials to more recent experiences with alternative treatments.

Hurwitz, Brian, Trisha Greenhalgh, and Vieda Skultans. 2004. Narrative research in health and illness. Malden, Mass.: BMJ Books.

Jurecic, Ann. 2012. Illness as Narrative. Pennsylvania: University of Pittsburg Press.

Kleinman, Arthur. 1989. The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing, And The Human Condition: Basic Books.

Mattingly, Cheryl, and Linda C. Garro. 2000. Narrative and the cultural construction of illness and healing. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Mattingly, Cheryl. 1998. Healing dramas and clinical plots: The narrative structure of experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mehl-Madrona, Lewis. 2007. Narrative medicine: the use of history and story in the healing process. Rochester, Vt.: Bear & Co.

Olson, L. G., and W. Terry. 2006. “The missing future tense in medical narrative.” Journal of Medical Ethics no. 32:88-91. doi: 10.1136/jmh.2006.000225.

Ricoeur, Paul. 1990. Time and Narrative, Volume 1 (Time & Narrative). Translated by Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer: University Of Chicago Press.

Psychiatric Narratives

Jamison, Kay R. 1995. An unquiet mind. New York: A.A. Knopf.

An autobiographical narrative of a renowned psychiatrist’s personal struggle with bipolar disorder. Kay begins with her struggles in early adult hood through her successes and failures managing the disease as a clinician. This widely publicized text is written at the intersection of personal and clinical narrative.

Lewis, Bradley. 2011. Narrative Psychiatry: How Stories Can Shape Clinical Practice. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Lewis applies narrative theory to psychiatry in an effort to rehumanize what he claims has become a primarily neurochemical practice. This work provides both a theory of psychiatric narratives and practical examples in medicine and literature.

Wood, Mary E. 2004. “”I’ve Found Him!”: Diagnostic Narrative in “The DSM-IV Casebook”.” Narrative no. 12 (2):195-220.

Wood argues that psychiatric diagnosis, specifically for schizophrenia, is a form of narrative, a particular telling of a patient’s story. The diagnostic narrative occludes the traces of the “shadow narratives” which express the individual’s agency and subjectivity. Wood examines psychiatric narratives, parsing out the diagnostic from the “shadow narrative.” These approaches complicate the notion of what is considered “clinically irrelevant” by traditional patient interviews.

Women and Medical Narratives

DasGupta, Sayantani, and Marsha Hurst. 2007. Stories of illness and healing: women write their bodies. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press.

Werner, Anne, Lise Widding Isaksen, and Kirsti Malterud. 2004. “‘I am not the kind of woman who complains of everything’: Illness stories on self and shame in women with chronic pain.” Social Science & Medicine no. 59 (5):1035-1045. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2003.12.001.