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The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  503 ratings  ·  37 reviews
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
Paperback, 231 pages
Published May 15th 1997 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 1995)
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Average rating 4.08  · 
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Emma Sea
Mar 15, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf, i-own-it, kindle
this is a pretty good time capsule of the medicalization of embodied experience in the early 1990s.

"Just as political and economic colonialism took over geographic areas, modernist medicine claimed the body of its patient as its territory, at least for the duration of the treatment. “When we’re admitted to a hospital or even visiting a doctor . . . the forms ask for ‘Patient Name.’ We stop being people and start being patients. . . . Our identity as people and the world we once knew both are re
Kayla Duty
Apr 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is a powerful insight into the way we understand how our body tells the story of our illness. Frank's insight into the way we use narrative power to give voice to illness that plagues our body is a beautifully written approach to narrative medicine. If you have any interest in the way we talk about our own medicine narratives, this book should be number one on your list. ...more
Sep 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Wounded Storyteller: Body Illness, and Ethic totally engaged me. So much good information for anyone living with a chronic illness. He looks at the four general problems of illness: control , body-relatedness, other relatedness, and desire and the direction each can go in. Then he examines the four ideal typical bodies: Disciplined, mirroring, dominating, and communicative body. He has a chart to show this and then he goes into the three main types of stories someone with an illness tells: r ...more
Jan 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Useful categories for thinking through and creating narratives of illness.
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is most directly relevant for medical ethics involving ill people talking story to tell modern medicine what it cannot know. His use of narratives strongly supported my understanding of his argument. His overuse of new typologies made the reading slightly tedious, but I will be able to use his terms, so I am grateful for them, in order to broaden the situations of suffering the body speaks and witnesses to torture and incarceration. He briefly mentions torture, and though it cannot be compa ...more
Shirin A.
Aug 20, 2022 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Arthur!! My #1 boy!!!
This blew my mind to smithereens and I will need some time to sit with it before I can articulate coherently its endless brilliance and grace.
Jun 10, 2008 rated it really liked it
Arthur W. Frank’s The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics is not a craft book for writers. It is a meticulously constructed, yet elegant and impassioned, examination of the centrality of storytelling as a way of deriving and communicating meaning, by and among individuals. Frank, a sociologist as well as a cancer and heart attack survivor and memoirist, concerns himself with the stories people tell when serious illness disrupts a life story, severing the present from a past that was s ...more
Jun 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
If you ignore the embarrassing cover and try not to pay too much attention to the gushy North-American style that Frank uses, this is an interesting and potentially empowering read. In quite a Nietzschean manner, he explores how sufferers can appropriate their illness and re-tell it in the form of a "story" (very 90s). Telling your story to someone else forces you to give it some sort of shape; you have to acknowledge your illness and present your thoughts about it to someone else. This allows y ...more
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book because it's cited by everyone who studies health and narrative. It was a good read though it took me a while to get through. The chapter on the Quest Narrative was probably my favorite since it's most relevant to the work I'm doing. If you're interested in medical memoirs, it's a must-read. ...more
Josephine Ensign
Jun 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book gets better on re-reading. Parts are dense and academic, but most of it is accessible. Provocative is mostly how I would describe it. My 'working copy' of the book is now dog-eared and green sticky-tagged throughout. His later chapters on the quest narrative and on testimony stand out as particularly well-written. ...more
Glenn Martinez
Proposes that wounded bodies are also wounded in voice. Illness narratives are therapeutic in that they allow the "body-self" to articulate and make sense of the interruptions caused by illness. ...more
Sep 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
I use this as a text in a class I teach for a BSN nursing program and it works quite well.
R.J. Gilmour
Nov 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Frank's book looks at the nature of storytelling as it relates to bodies that are defined by illness. It is a fascinating and nuanced, analytical study that draws on a wide variety of sources to understand how narrations about illness are at once defined by the bodies illness to speak about pain and identity.

"I had grasped well that there are situations in life where our body is our entire self and our fate. I was in my body and nothing else...My body...was my calamity. My body...was my physica
Jonas Stage
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Earlier this day I went to a workshop with Arthur Frank in Copenhagen, Denmark. The workshop was about the use of narratives in health practice and research for people with life-threatening illness.

As a way of preparing myself for the workshop I decided to read the ‘Wounded Storyteller’. I was familiar with Franks concepts of the quest-, chaos- and the restitution narrative beforehand, throughout my study of sociology. But I wasn't quite sure why we need to tell other people's stories. More accu
Mish Middelmann
Oct 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am deeply inspired and informed by this seminal book, first written over 25 years ago. Arthur Frank calls it "my attempt to widen the circle, to amplify and connect the voices that were telling tales about illness, so that all of us could feel less alone.” He also introduces the idea of storytelling as a way of generating a new roadmap, having lost the old roadmap and identity in the devastation of one's illness.

These intentions and possibilities ring true for me as a wounded storyteller. At t
I'm reading this as a member of the "remission society," and for my own dissertation writing purposes. So this reading was personal and professional.

I really enjoyed this book, even though parts of it felt a bit dated at times. Medicine has moved more toward a "shared decision making model" of care, and doctors have, in my opinion, become better at listening to stories. Still, if you examine your medical record, very few of those stories likely made it into the written word. As Frank says in th
Jul 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Very easy and straightforward way of writing with an interesting thesis. I do wish there had been more in his argument in the way of how the body speaks through writing, as I found that argument to only come out during the discussion on chaos narrative, wherein the body prohibits narrative and voice. His argument, as he stipulates a few times, is reductive at times, but I appreciate that he emphasizes that narratives consistently overlap in his categories, and the categorization does make his ar ...more
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Frank writes about how ill people -- or those who can serve as witnesses to the land of illness -- tell their stories. He writes about the competing narratives of doctors and patients, agency and/or healing that can come from writing about experiences with illness, and the importance of listening carefully to the testimonies of ill people in order to empathize and truly hear their experiences.

I was surprised by how much I loved this book, and how much I related to it because of my own experience
Jan 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frank has a really nice tone to his writing that is remarkably easy to engage with even when dealing with difficult subjects like illness or heady subjects like storytelling. The narrative themes and conceptual ideas that Frank works with in this book are straightforward and easy to understand, and he does a fantastic job showcasing their implications through extended discussion and apt illustrations. I don't know that I would ever say the book is fun to read, but it is engaging and thought-prov ...more
Ann Michael
Jun 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As a reader with an intellectual bent--psychology, sociology, anthropology, neurology, postmodernist theories, philosophy, literary criticism and theory, etc...I read and learn from such texts. They're not always quick, easy reads.

As a reader who has fairly recently had to find her way to live with physiological challenges (chronic and degenerative), I'm seeking insights and wisdom.

As a writer, I've long believed in the value of story/narrative as not necessarily a method of healing but certainl
Brandon Lee
Nov 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Reaction: The core of medical ethics, narrative described in three of the many types of narratives that exist in human history. Learning from illness takes parts of one’s understanding of the experience and moves forward with the illness.
Writing Style: Easy to read but also academic tone
Argumentation: A journey into how the body experiences different conflicts during illness, and three narratives that follow to apply these body problems into narrative medicine
Commendation: A clear, well thought
Bruce Campbell
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dense, fascinating, and important. Did I say dense? Frank draws on dozens of sources from Aristotle to Riceour to Lorde to Parsons to Nietzsche to Sacks, to describe how the ill create narratives to cope with their illness. He shows how the healthcare system is modernist while patients are often postmodern, setting up a therapeutic dissonance. You'll learn a new "language" along the way: We all aspire to maintain a Communicative body type pursuing a Quest narrative where we accept illness as a v ...more
Nov 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
A really, really important read for anyone who deals with illness regularly, or is interested in exploring perspectives about illness.

A bit difficult to read/follow at times, but overall, an incredible and important project.
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, phd
This is a really interesting cornerstone of the medical humanities with a LOT of problems. You gotta get the second edition with the new preface and afterword, where he acknowledges all the issues with the original.
May 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, birthwork
Another Birth Story Book. I wish there were two versions of this book. One that was more about the depth of the different kinds of stories and less about trying to convince people like the first half was. But all in all good stuff.
Sep 20, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
Prescribed text for study.
Corinne Natasha
Sep 05, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: death
This was a slog. It's graduate-level sociology and very difficult to relate to real-world situations. ...more
Chris Nagel
The butler did it.
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this book, though, at times, it struck me as dense. I wanted more practical applications and examples. I kept developing one of my own: Franklin D. Roosevelt, before and after he was stricken with polio. To that, I added John F. Kennedy and his Addison's Disease and how the press never explored or dwelled upon JFK's health limitations. ...more
Aug 30, 2013 rated it liked it
I picked this book up hoping it would assist me in writing my own memoir, but it didn't. Instead it was almost like reading a scientific study into the writing voices of people who are ill. While it might be interesting to study those behaviors, that kind of reading is not really my cup of tea. That being said, the Preface rocked and I thought, this book is going to be great. Not! I loved this one sentence that the author wrote - it really resonated with me: "The Wounded Storyteller is a surviva ...more
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