Autobiography, Illness, and Embodiment


Course Title

Autobiography, Illness, and Embodiment

Course Description

Where do stories of illness begin—and end? How do experiences of disease or disability shape one’s sense of self? How do patient narratives engage with, respond to, and/or critique medical discourses? In this course, we will examine autobiographical illness narratives in a variety of media—print, graphic, and digital—in order to analyze how patient-writers narrate their experiences of illness and construct themselves as subjects within their wider social and cultural contexts. Engaging with modes of autobiographical expression from nineteenth-century journals to twenty-first century blogs, we will think about how personal narratives use the subjective experience of embodiment as a way to communicate, educate, and connect. We will also read scholarly articles that address the stakes of this kind of self-representation, and use critical theory to consider how the experience of illness intersects with race, gender, and sexuality. Ultimately, this course suggests that the study of narrative both allows us to imagine more empathic care, and helps us to understand how patients participate in the creation of medical knowledge.

Course Level

Instructor Name

Course Topics

Disciplinary Perspectives

Geographic Location

Hiram, Ohio

Instructional Modality

Institutional Location


Autobiography, Illness, and Embodiment