Dr Jivitesh Vashisht
- School: School of English, Drama and Film
- Mentor: Professor John Brannigan
Literatures and Cultures of the Case History (1970-2020): Narrative Nuance and Clinical Life Writing
Literary and cultural production since the late 20th century has transformative implications for one of the most enduring ethical dilemmas of our age: clinicians’ representation of patients and their life stories in the form of medical case histories. Case histories contain a clinician’s retrospective account of the progression, diagnosis and treatment of an illness. As stylized narratives of an individual life, captured through the prism of an ailment, they have long been compared to literary genres like the biography and the novel. However, this intertwinement of the case history and the literary/cultural field has only been traced up till the early-twentieth century. Consequently, a significant gap exists in our knowledge of writers’ and artists’ unprecedented engagement with the case-history since the 1970s, which ranges from retellings of paradigmatic case histories from neurology and psychoanalysis to the appropriation of the genre in their own creative practice.
My IRC-funded project addresses this crucial gap by assembling and analysing a corpus of novels, memoirs, plays, and films from Ireland, Britain and North America (1970--2020), examining them for the first time as a coherent but overlooked canon of ‘literatures and cultures of the case history’. Synthesising textual and performance analysis with approaches from Critical Medical Humanities, Adaptation Studies, and Feminist and Disability Theory, I argue that these creative works are engaged in a quest for ‘narrative nuance’ (Arthur W. Frank 2019) in clinical writing. They subject the genre of the case history to unprecedented experiments and re-mediations to arrive at newer, more ethically robust, models of telling the story of another’s suffering on their behalf.
My current and previous research outputs can usually be found on Research Gate. I tweet as @jivi_teshv