Advertisement

Journal of Medical Humanities

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 241–256 | Cite as

“It Is Not Wit, It Is Truth:” Transcending the Narrative Bounds of Professional and Personal Identity in Life and in Art

  • Michelle L. Elliot
Article
  • 566 Downloads

Abstract

Taking inspiration from the film Wit (2001), adapted from Margaret Edson’s (1999) Pulitzer Prize-winning play, this article explores the particularities of witnessing a cinematic cancer narrative juxtaposed with the author’s own cancer narrative. The analysis reveals the tenuous line between death and dying, illness and wellness, life and living and the resulting identities shaped in the process of understanding both from a personal and professional lens. By framing these representations of illness experience within the narrative constructions of drama, time, metaphor and morality, the personal stories of intellectual knowledge converging with intimate and embodied knowing are revealed.

Keywords

Cancer Narrative Reflexivity Witnessing 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Thanks are extended to early readers of this manuscript for their thoughtful suggestions and support including Mary Lawlor, ScD and Cheryl Mattingly, PhD. In particular I would like to thank the editor and reviewer for their critical and valued feedback. This paper was written in partial fulfillment of the author’s requirements for a doctorate degree in occupational science at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California.

Conflict of interest

The author declares that the author has no conflict of interest.

References

  1. 1.
    Baracchi, Claudia. 2006. “Contributions to the Coming-to-Be of Greek Beginning: Heidegger’s Inceptive Thinking.” In Heidegger and the Greeks: Interpretive essays, edited by Drew A. Hylan and John Panteleimon Manoussakis, 23-42. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Booth, Wayne. 2002. “The Ethics of Medicine, As Revealed in Literature.” In Stories Matter: The Role of Narrative in Medical Ethics, edited by Rita Charon and Martha Montello, 10-20. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Brendel, William. 2009. “A Framework for Narrative-Driven Transformative Learning in Medicine.” Journal of Transformative Education 7: 26-43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Brown, Margaret Wise. 1942. The Runaway Bunny. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Burke, Kenneth. 1945. A Grammar of Motives. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Bury, Mike. 1982. “Chronic Illness as Biographical Disruption.” Sociology of Health and Illness 4, no. 2: 167-182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Charon, Rita. 2006. Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Crapanzano, Vincent. 2004. Imaginative Horizons: An Essay in Literary-Philosophical Anthropology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Deloney, Linda A. and James Graham. 2003. “Wit: Using Drama to Teach First-Year Medical Students About Empathy and Compassion.” Teaching and Learning in Medicine: An International Journal 15, no. 4: 247-251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Eads, Martha Greene. 2002. “Unwitting Redemption in Margaret Edson’s Wit.” Christianity and Literature 51, no. 2: 241-254.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Edson, Margaret. 1999. Wit. New York: Dramatists Play Service, Inc.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Foster, Ellen A. 2007. “A Rigorous Mind Meets her Yielding Body: Intellectual Life and Meaning-Making in Wit.” Annals of Internal Medicine 147, no. 5: 353-356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Frank, Arthur. 1995. The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    ----- 2004. The Renewal of Generosity: Illness, Medicine, and How to Live. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    ----- 2010. Letting Stories Breathe: A Socio-Narratology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Frankl, Viktor. 1959. Man’s Search for Meaning. New York: Washington Square Press.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Geisel, Theodor Seuss (Dr. Seuss). 1960. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! New York: Random House Children’s Books.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Hydén, Lars-Christer. 1997. “Illness and Narrative.” Sociology of Health & Illness 19, no. 1: 48-69.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Jones, Therese. 2007. “Ending in Wonder: Replacing Technology with Revelation in Margaret Edson’s Wit. Perspectives on Biology and Medicine 50, no. 3: 395-409. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Keaveney, Madeline M. 2004. “Death be not Proud: An Analysis of Margaret Edson’s Wit.” Women and Language 27, no. 1: 40-44.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Kirmayer, Lawrence. 2000. “Broken Narratives.” In Narrative and the Cultural Construction of Illness and Healing, edited by Cheryl Mattingly and Linda Garro, 153-180. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Klaver, Elizabeth. 2004. A mind-body-flesh problem: The case of Margaret Edson’s “Wit.” Contemporary Literature. 45(4): 659-683.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Kleinman, Arthur. 1989. The Illness Narratives: Suffering, Healing, and the Human Condition. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Lamont, Rosette C. 1999. “Coma versus Comma: John Donne’s Holy Sonnets in Edson’s Wit.” The Massachusetts Review 40, no. 4: 569-575.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Lewis, Peter R. 2005. “The Wisdom of Wit in the Teaching of Medical Students and Residents.” Family Medicine 27, no. 6: 396-398.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Mattingly, Cheryl. 1998. Healing Dramas and Clinical Plots: The Narrative Structure of Experience. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    ----- 2010. The Paradox of Hope. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    ----- 2012a. “Two Virtue Ethics and the Anthropology of Morality.” Anthropological Theory 12: 161-184.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    ----- 2012b. “Moral Selves and Moral Scenes: Narrative Experiments in Everyday Life.” Ethnos early online, 1-27.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Murphy, Robert F. 1987. The Body Silent. New York: Henry Holt and Company.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Radley, Alan and Diane Taylor. 2003. “Remembering One’s Stay in Hospital: A Study in Photography, Recovery and Forgetting.” Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine 7, no. 2: 129-159.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Rier. David. 2000. “The Missing Voice of the Critically Ill: A Medical Sociologist’s First-Person Account.” Sociology of Health & Illness 22, no. 1: 68-93.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Rosaldo, Renato. 1989. “Grief and a Headhunter’s Rage.” In Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis, edited by Renato Rosaldo, 1-21. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Sacks, Oliver. 1984. A Leg to Stand On. New York: Touchstone.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Sykes Jr., John D. 2003. “Wit, Pride and the Resurrection: Margaret Edson’s Play and John Donne’s Poetry.” Renascence 55, no. 2: 163-174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Taylor, Jill Bolte. 2006. My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. New York: Viking.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Throop, C. Jason. 2010a. Suffering and Sentiment: Exploring the Vicissitudes of Experience and Pain in Yap. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Vanhoutte, Jacqueline. 2002. “Cancer and the Common Woman in Margaret Edson’s Wit.” Comparative Drama 36, no. 3/4: 391-410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Wit, directed by Mike Nichols. 2001. Los Angeles: Avenue Pictures Productions, DVD.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 2001. Philosophical Investigations. London, UK: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Wriglesworth, Chad. 2008. “Theological Humanism as Living Praxis: Reading Surfaces and Depth in Margaret Edson’s Wit.Literature & Theology 22, no. 2: 210-222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Herman Ostrow School of DentistryUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

Personalised recommendations