Narratives of Illness

Illness narratives edify us about how life problems are created, controlled, made meaningful.  They also tell us about the way cultural values and social relations shape how we perceive and monitor our bodies, label and categorize bodily symptoms, interpret complaints in the particular context of our life situation; we express our distress through bodily idioms that are both peculiar to distinctive cultural worlds and constrained by our shared human condition (Kleinman, p. xiii).

Kleinman, A. (1988). The illness narratives: Suffering, healing, and the human condition. New York: HarperCollins.


Berger, J. (1997). Trauma and literary theory. Contemporary Literature, 38(3), 569-582.

Brody, H. (2003). Stories of sickness (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

Charon, R. (2008). Narrative medicine: Honoring the stories of illness. New York: Oxford University Press.

Couser, T. (1997). Recovering bodies: Disability, illness, and lifewriting. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Crossley, M. L., & Crossley, N. (2001). ‘Patient’ voices, social movements and the habitus: How psychiatric survivors ‘speak out’. Social Science and Medicine, 52, 1477-1489.

Engel, J. D., Zarconi, J., & Pethtel, L. L. (Eds.). (2008). Narrative in health care: Healing patients, practitioners, profession and community. Oxford: Radcliffe Medical Press.

Ezzy, D. (2000). Illness narratives: Time, hope, and HIV. Social Science and Medicine, 50, 605-617.

Faircloth, C. A., Rittman, M., Boylstein, C., Young, M. E., & van Puymbroeck, M. (2004). Energizing the ordinary: Biographical work and the future in stroke recovery narratives. Journal of Aging Studies, 18, 399-413.

Frank, A. W. (1997). The wounded storyteller: Body, illness, and ethics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Hunter, K. M. (1991). Doctors’ stories: The narrative structure of medical knowledge. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Hurwitz, B. (2000). Narrative and the practice of medicine. The Lancet (356), 2086-2089.

Hyden, L. (1997). Illness and narrative. Sociology of Health and Illness, 19(1), 48-69.

Reissman, C. K. (2002). Illness narratives: Positioned identities (pp. 1-35): Health Communication Research Centre, Cardiff University.

Rimmon-Kenan, S. (2002). The story of “I”: Illness and narrative identity. Narrative, 10(1), 9-27.

Skultans, V. (2000). Editorial. Narrative illness and the body. Anthropology & Medicine, 7(1), 5-13.

Smith, B., & Sparkes, A. C. (2011). Exploring multiple responses to a chaos narrative. Health, 15(1), 38-53.

Stern, S., Doolan, M., Staples, E., Szmukler, G. L., & Eisler, I. (1999). Disruption and reconstruction: Narrative insights into the experience of family members caring for a relative diagnosed with serious mental illness. Family Process, 38(3), 353-369.

Thomas, C. (2010). Negotiating the contested terrain of narrative methods in illness contexts. Sociology of Health & Illness, 32(4), 647-660.

Ville, I., & Khlat, M. (2007). Meaning and coherence of self and health: An approach based on narratives of life events. Social Science & Medicine, 64, 1001-1014.

Williams, S. J. (2000). Chronic illness as biographical disruption or biographical disruption as chronic illness? Reflections on a core concept. Sociology of Health & Illness, 22(1), 40-67.

Narrative Accounts

Frank, A. W. (1992). At the will of the body: Reflections on illness. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Grealy, L. (1995). Autobiography of a face. New York: Harper Perennial.

Kreigel, L. (1998). Flying solo: Reimagining manhood, courage, and loss. Boston: Beacon Press.

Kuusisto, S. (1998). Planet of the blind: A memoir. New York: Delta.

Lorde, A. (1980). The cancer journals. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books.

Mairs, N. (1990). Carnal acts: Essays. New York: HarperCollins.

Monette, P. (1990). Borrowed time: An AIDS memoir. New York: Avon Books.

Price, R. (1994/1995). A whole new life: An illness and a healing. New York: Penguin.

Sacks, O. W. (1984/1998). A leg to stand on. New York: Touchstone Books.

Sacks, O. W. (1995). An anthropologist on mars: Seven paradoxical tales. New York: Vintage Books.

Sacks, O. W. (1998). The man who mistook his wife for a hat: And other clinical tales. New York: Touchstone Books.

Swander, M. (1995). Out of this world: A journey of healing. New York: Penguin Books.

Walker, L. A. (1986). A loss for words: The story of deafness in a family. New York: HarperPerennial.

Weimer, J. M. (1994). Back talk: Teaching lost selves to speak. New York: Random House