Narrating health

Literatura i Medicina

Literature was, is, and will always continue to be a central element for the study of different semiotic representations of health and disease. There are two essential elements for this; first, the fact that activities related to health and disease, even in professional environments, constantly intersect with narrations (sometimes in the shape of reports or notes taken listening to the patient); second is, of course, the fact that getting sick and being healed is sometimes associated to exceptional circumstances that can be suggestive for creation.

Analysing the specific perspective of health care professionals who are also writers is especially interesting, as is delving into the works of those who recreate feelings from the perspective of the sick person. In this sense, the therapeutic role of literature seems clear; it can help the writer thanks to its liberating character, but also the reader or listener, because of the positive stimulus experienced while enjoying a work of art.

We must recognise that health – and especially the absence of it – constitutes a great ethical and emotional subject, suitable for the expression of the writer’s subjectivity. This subjectivity is embodied in many textual strategies and discursive procedures. The use of metaphoric frameworks and figures of speech built on medicine meta-language stands out. In fact, this sort of tropes and expressions is so strong that it frequently permeates non-literary texts. Thus, for example, the use of disease-related metaphors when discussing other topics is constant. One of the most valuable features of a literary creator who tries to depict aspects of health and disease is their insight when representing time (the stages of a disease, the last moments of life, the hope for future healing, etc.) and space (hospitals, clinics, consultation offices, sanatoriums, etc.). In this sense, the present Mètode Science Studies Journal monograph constitutes a diverse approach that confirms many of these insights.

This monograph is framed within the project Lenguaje y cultura de la salud (CSO2014-61928-EXP), funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry, and Competitiveness.


The monograph Narrating health. Literature and Medicine has the collaboration of the artist and professor of the Department of Painting of the Polytechnic University of Valencia Paco de la Torre (Almería, 1965). His carefully created works constitute a powerful reflection on health and disease, medical research and the meeting spaces of doctors and patients.

© Mètode 2017 - 96. Online only. Narrating health - Winter 2017/2018

Professor of Philology at the University of Almeria. He coordinates research at the Research Centre «Communication and Society (CySOC) and a member of the Observatory for Rare Diseases (OBSER) of the Spanish Federation of Rare Diseases (FEDER).