The linguistic, rhetorical, and metaphorical powers of language profoundly influence events of health care. Physicians are professionalized into their own isolating language at the cost of fluency in their native tongue. Translation is always inadequate. Physicians resort to ironizing detachment from patients to delude themselves that they will not sicken and die. David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and the Wittgensteinian and enactive/embodied cognitive and phenomenological concepts that support his work offer models for clinicians committed to authentic care of patients.
Spoken Body: An Infinite Jest of Life, Death, and the Medical Tongue
Rita Charon is a general internist and literary scholar who originated the field of narrative medicine. She is professor and chair of the Department of Medical Humanities and Ethics, professor of medicine at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, and executive director of Columbia Narrative Medicine. Her work in narratology focuses on intersubjectivity, reader theory, and the works of Henry James. Her research investigates narrative medicine training, reflective practice, and health care justice. She has authored, coauthored, or coedited four books on narrative medicine and is widely published in leading medical and literary journals.
Rita Charon; Spoken Body: An Infinite Jest of Life, Death, and the Medical Tongue. Poetics Today 1 June 2020; 41 (2): 261–279. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-8172570
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