On this page see Articles about Narrative Medicine. I also wish to offer a map describing the significance of Dr. Charon’s work in joining literary scholarship and clinical practice. There are two sides, as always, especially to this story.
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Writers and Artists all know that art and writing heal. The medical community has to have evidence-based data in order to welcome these powerful agents. For writers and artists, it is frustrating to know first-hand these strengths and to know the “science” thinks them “woo woo” and “soft.” What Dr. Charon has done is found a way to show with evidence and move reflective writing and literature into the clinical setting. Yes, to us it is obvious. But it takes someone from inside medicine to open the door. Rita has done this.
She used Narrative Theory, which emerged from literature’s frustration with being viewed as frou frou and woo woo. Scholars created a “science of story” called Narratology. It was dry and stunted at first but with the addition of deconstruction, feminist theory, critical race theory, and queering of canon, narrative theory now is a vivacious and wide-open field for opening the power of story.
Dr. Charon completed her PhD in Literature after noticing how taking a single course changed how she listened to her patients. With her doctoral work, which led to her book, Narrative Medicine: Honoring the Stories of Illness, she has launched a transformation. She is now the Jefferson Scholar for the National Endowment for the Humanities. Past scholars include Ken Burns and Robert Penn Warren.