Before Narrative : Episodic Reading and Representations of Chronic Pain

Wasson, Sara (2018) Before Narrative : Episodic Reading and Representations of Chronic Pain. Medical Humanities, 44 (2): 106. pp. 106-112. ISSN 1468-215X

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This article suggests that some illness experience may require a reading practice less concerned with narrative coherence or self-authorship, and more interested in the value of textual fragments, episodes and moments considered outside a narrative framework. Chronic pain can pose multiple challenges to the narrative orientations celebrated in both 'survivorship' discourse and classic medical humanities scholarship. In its recalcitrance to cure, its often mysterious aetiology and its complex blend of somatic, interpersonal and affective elements, representations of chronic pain can require a richer vocabulary of temporality. I draw on contemporary affect theory to augment the available critical vocabulary for the textual representation of protagonists' temporal orientation within illness experience, identifying a language for the emergent present that resists a narrative form. Beyond identifying narrative 'incoherence', affect discourse gives a way to recognise the strained, equivocal labour of incoherence, of inhabiting a cryptic present moment. Affect theory's attention to the emergent present may give a way to read incoherent 'chaos' outside from a narrative framework, not only as a dark, formless stage in a personal story. To expand our vocabulary for this position, I offer a term for a particular affective experience of the present amid repeated marginalisation: the temporality of thwarted connection. I illustrate how these concepts can enable an alternative reading stance by offering a brief analysis of Lous Heshusius's hybrid autobiography and academic study, Chronic Pain from the Inside Out.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Medical Humanities
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© Article author(s) (or their employer(s) unless otherwise stated in the text of the article) 2018. All rights reserved. No commercial use is permitted unless otherwise expressly granted. This is an Open Access article distributed in accordance with the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt and build upon this work, for commercial use, provided the original work is properly cited. See:
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? affect theorychaoschronic paincoherenceepisodenarrativityteleogenesistemporalityliterature and literary theoryphilosophypathology and forensic medicinediscipline-based research ??
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Deposited On:
17 Jul 2017 12:08
Last Modified:
28 Apr 2024 23:43