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Reconstructing Illness: Studies in Pathography

Overview

Serious illness and mortality, those most universal, unavoidable, and frightening of human experiences, are the focus of this pioneering study, which has been hailed as a telling and provocative commentary on our times. As modern medicine has become more scientific and dispassionate, a new literary genre as emerged: pathography, the personal narrative concerning illness, treatment and sometimes death. Hawkins's sensitive reading of numerous pathographies highlights the assumptions, attitudes, and myths that ...
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Overview

Serious illness and mortality, those most universal, unavoidable, and frightening of human experiences, are the focus of this pioneering study, which has been hailed as a telling and provocative commentary on our times. As modern medicine has become more scientific and dispassionate, a new literary genre as emerged: pathography, the personal narrative concerning illness, treatment and sometimes death. Hawkins's sensitive reading of numerous pathographies highlights the assumptions, attitudes, and myths that people bring to the medical encounter. One factor emerges again and again in these "case studies": the tendency in contemporary medical practice to focus primarily not on the needs of the individual who is sick but on the condition that we call disease. Recommended for medical practitioners, the clergy, caregivers, students of popular culture, and the general reader, Reconstructing Illness demonstrates that "only when we hear both the doctor's and the patient's voice will we have a medicine that is truly human."
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hawkins, an associate professor of humanities at Pennsylvania State University School of Medicine, argues convincingly that today's ``pathographies,'' or first-person written accounts of experiences with disease, are replacing the stories of religious conversion that were popular in earlier eras. She posits that each of these works chooses one of three central themes to make sense out of impending death. One theme views death and illness as a battle or journey to be undertaken; a second is framed as a quest for ``the good death''; the third posits the belief that patients can take responsibility for their own recovery. Sources such as Paul Monette's Borrowed Time and Gilda Radner's comic autobiography back up these theories, but sometimes Hawkins flits from one work to the next without lending the reader any complex understanding of them. Furthermore, the organization of the three types of pathography into separate chapters does not allow for the possibility that some books fall into more than one category. However, the observations about contemporary culture and our feelings about death and illness are plausible and intriguing, and the writing is clear. (June)
Booknews
Studies the myths, attitudes, and assumptions that inform the way we deal with illness. Begins with an analysis of a popular literary genre, recent biographies and autobiographies that describe experiences of illness, and evolves into a discussion of issues in contemporary medical practice. This second edition contains a new final chapter surveying pathographies that have appeared since the first edition (1992), and suggesting two additional illness myths. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557531261
  • Publisher: Purdue University Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/1999
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 2
  • Pages: 289
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface to the First Edition
Preface to the Second Edition
Acknowledgments
Ch. 1 Introduction 1
Ch. 2 The Myth of Rebirth and the Promise of Cure 31
Ch. 3 Myths of Battle and Journey 61
Ch. 4 Constructing Death: Myths about Dying 91
Ch. 5 Healthy-Mindedness: Myth as Medicine 125
Ch. 6 Pathographies and Ideological Myth in the 1990s 159
Appendix 191
Notes 227
References 249
Index 277
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