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The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics [Paperback]

Arthur W. Frank
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 15, 1997 0226259935 978-0226259932 1
In At the Will of the Body, Arthur Frank told the story of his own illnesses, heart attack and cancer. That book ended by describing the existence of a "remission society," whose members all live with some form of illness or disability. The Wounded Storyteller is their collective portrait.

Ill people are more than victims of disease or patients of medicine; they are wounded storytellers. People tell stories to make sense of their suffering; when they turn their diseases into stories, they find healing.

Drawing on the work of authors such as Oliver Sacks, Anatole Broyard, Norman Cousins, and Audre Lorde, as well as from people he met during the years he spent among different illness groups, Frank recounts a stirring collection of illness stories, ranging from the well-known--Gilda Radner's battle with ovarian cancer--to the private testimonials of people with cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, and disabilties. Their stories are more than accounts of personal suffering: they abound with moral choices and point to a social ethic.

Frank identifies three basic narratives of illness in restitution, chaos, and quest. Restitution narratives anticipate getting well again and give prominence to the technology of cure. In chaos narratives, illness seems to stretch on forever, with no respite or redeeming insights. Quest narratives are about finding that insight as illness is transformed into a means for the ill person to become someone new.

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

At the conclusion of At the Will of the Body (LJ 3/15/91), Frank (sociology, Univ. of Calgary) wrote that "remission society is new." Members of this group are those who, like himself, all live with severe illness or disability and know firsthand "the value of the everyday." In his latest work, Frank expands his narrative from the particular to the universal, from the heart-wrenching story of illness to a sociological theory of illness and ethics. By analyzing the works of authors such as Anatole Broyard, Norman Cousins, Audre Lorde, and Oliver Sacks, as well as the narratives of countless chronically ill, Frank evolves a theory that sick, or "wounded," people tell their stories to make sense of their suffering and to find healing...thus becoming a "moral witness" in society. Frank's structured theorizing may become a landmark in academic sick-role research studies and medical studies. For academic medical collections.
James Swanton, Albert Einstein Coll. of Medicine, New York
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 231 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (May 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226259935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226259932
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life Is A Group Grope July 13, 2000
Frank's novel does a masterful job in identifying the "voice" we all need in the battle with life threatnening illness. Embracing and affirming the "whole person" through their storytelling goes far in overcoming the modernist approach in treating the illness without the person. Recognizing the struggle as an opportunity for journey also sounds the call to help others currently in the trenches to bring about healing. This is a beautiful book.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On becoming the brother of all who suffer February 15, 2009
This is an extremely moving book on what it means to have a serious illness, such as cancer, and on why our coming to grips with this requires telling our story to others.

When we are struck by an illness like cancer, our sense of having a meaningful past, present, and future is often severely damaged. Before cancer, if someone had asked us to tell our life story, we would have told it with a certain belief that the past led rationally to where we are, and that our future will be a reasonable result of the same journey that we have been on since we were born. But with cancer, it's very difficult to make sense of the reasonableness of something that has just happened, in spite of the life we've led that was supposed to lead to a different present, and one that we thought would lead to our future dreams. Now, all of that is shattered, and the rest of our future will be uncertain.

In order to mend ourselves, we need to embark on a journey in which we tell our stories. Not once, but over and over. There are many versions of our stories. When we are giving medical history to a doctor or nurse, it's one kind of story, essentially focusing on the medical facts. When we tell a friend or loved one, personal details may be added. Over time, some pieces of the past become minimized in our stories, and other concerns need to be expanded upon. As we tell and retell our story, we resuture our broken selves, reintegrate our past selves with this new wounded present self, and make possible a new future self with new dreams. We become emotionally healthy, in spite of the physical ordeals we may still need to endure. We need to tell our stories for our sake, and we need to share them with others, for their sake.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Listening to the suffering April 3, 2008
Don't we all feel uncomfortable when trying to sustain a supportive relationship with someone suffering with a long-term illness? This book gives a philosophical framework for the mindset of someone in that situation. Initially it was rather heavy into social theory, but once you've worked through that part, you get some great food for thought. I've recommended it to folks in pastoral care and psychology.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Find Your Story March 22, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Frank's book is a classic work on the stories that organize our lives. While he uses illness narratives as his case in point, the application of his work is much broader, from looking at how we have, consciously or unconsciously, set our lives up to work all the way out to looking at cosmology and spirituality.
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