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Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors Paperback – August 25, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
'Theories that diseases are caused by mental states and can be cured by will power are always an index of how much is not understood about a disease.
Moreover, there is a peculiarly modern predilection for psychological explanations of disease...Psychologizing seems to provide control...over which people have no control. Psychological understanding undermines the 'reality' of a disease.'
Sontag traces, historically, the ways different diseases and the people who contracted them have been viewed. She spends time discussing tuberculars--waif-like, pale, romantic--and cancer patients--repressed, the 'cancer personality,' shame--then goes on to debunk these notions by stating that once the cause, cure, innoculation is found, the 'myth' or popular psychology of the disease no longer holds.
In this edition, in the final chapter about AIDS and its metaphors Sontag writes that she'd written the first part of the book (all but the AIDS chapter) while a cancer patient and in response to reactions she saw in fellow patients. She saw guilt and shame; and she saw these as impediments to people's treatments. For she knew she had an illness and she set about to cure it medically, in the best possible way, while others passively accepted the 'metaphor' handed to them and, thus, did less to help themselves best. She felt frustrated or saddened by their psychologizing and self-blame and wished to write to others that their physical illness is a physical illness and the best route to recovery is to think only of how to find the best medical treatment.Read more ›
In her pair of related essays, Illness as a Metaphor and AIDS and its Metaphors, Susan Sontag reveals many of the metaphors surrounding such influential diseases as tuberculosis, cancer, syphilis, and AIDS. While she does acknowledge the necessity of the metaphor for human understanding, throughout her assays she argues that there "aren't some metaphors we might well abstain from or try to retire". Although this important point should by no means be taken lightly, the true worth in her essays is the skill in which she uncovers these metaphors and explains (she is, after all, against interpretation) the stigmatizing affects of the myths they create.
Sontag does not limit the scope to which she describes the metaphors.Read more ›
comment on that alone. The book is an excellent antidote to the
overemphasis on psychological causes for physical illness that is
current in society and, especially, in the "new age"
community. Well worth reading and digesting for that purpose.
said, I do think [the text] overstates the case somewhat. There is
a body of empirical evidence showing, for example, links between
mental state and immune function. This link would, in principle, be
expected to influence the incidence of both infective disease and
cancer. For example, only a fraction of those who are infected with
T.B. develop clinical disease, and stress may play a role in
activating latent disease in those who are chronically infected. In
polio, the situation is even more extreme, as only about one pecent of
those who are infected develop clinical disease. Thus, for many
infective diseases, there is a marked difference between rates of
infection and rates of "symptomaticity." It seems likely
that the mind and mental state is one (but certainly not the only!)
factor that influences whether an infection becomes clinical
Similarly, in cancer, as I understand it, all of us are
constantly experiencing mutations that have the potential to become
cancerous. But most of these mutations are eliminated, before they do
harm, by the operation of various "survaliance" systems
(including the immune system) in the body. Thus, the onset of cancer
may involve an escape from survaliance. To the extent that mental
state affects immune function, the mind could affect the appearance of
cancer.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book was supposed to be in "a very good condition," but it is, in fact, only in an acceptable one. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Marta
was exactly what i was looking for!was exactly what i was looking for!Published 18 months ago by Juan Acosta
This book was recommended to me soooo many times when I was interviewing at medical schools, and sat on my to-read list forever. I think it is some sort of classic or something. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Mae
Fascinating. I had heard of Ms. Sontang over the years, but this is the first time I've ever read one of her works. Read morePublished on October 4, 2013 by Wayne Hall
Sontag was one of the best intellectual voices of our time that spoke about universal topics from her unique and analytical perspectives. Read morePublished on July 24, 2013 by whj
The book did not have a glossary or an index at the back to identify concepts in the book and I believe this was unprofessional. The publishers should have sorted that out. Read morePublished on April 4, 2013 by Denise Bjorkman