Published online by Cambridge University Press: 04 June 2021
The nineteenth century saw a vital reassessment of the relationship between medicine and storytelling. By 1800 healing and narrative had shared a long and complicated history; according to Stephen Rachman, ‘the interdisciplinary merging of literature and medicine derives […] from a cultural recognition that literature has always resided in medicine’. The latter, he adds, ‘concerns itself with biological events, to be sure, but those events, once named, enter into language and, as such, are framed by culture and mediated by literature’. Arthur W. Frank’s The Wounded Storyteller (1995) argues that the tendency to think of health, pathology, and treatment through stories is essentially ‘premodern’, and that more contemporary approaches to medicine have lost the original ‘feel for stories’ which once allowed a ‘heuristic framework’ for listening to the sick.