Masters Thesis

Woolfian language prescriptions within narrative medicine

The emerging field of narrative medicine challenges precepts governing the long-standing tradition of rational medicine. As it develops and proliferates, narrative medicine will likely evince many taboos. These taboos are indicative of a boundary circumscribing the realm of legitimate medical practice. Allowing patients to speak their own truths will admit into the medical profession new and provocative sentiments, superstitions, or ideas. What is taboo within mainstream medicine is often aligned with or deemed “feminine.” Many designations of the legitimate and illegitimate seem to hinge upon a division between the mind and body, the former being tied to masculine authority, and the latter somehow equating the feminine and problematic. Virginia Woolf’s essay “On Being Ill” addresses the Western mind/body duality, and calls for a new language capable of rendering the body visible within normative discourse. Woolf challenges standard appraisals of illness, effectively prefiguring the development of narrative medicine. Despite, or rather because of its marginal status, there is much hope to be found within the concept of a feminine, embodied language and writing, especially within the medical context.