Being unable to think: therapeutic reflections on our non-future
Dr James RakocziZoom
Phenomenological studies of illness expression in medical humanities and qualitative health research tend to foreground the illness-event as the necessary and sufficient cause for writing about illness. In this paper, I argue instead that the continued waves of pathography, illness biography, and sick manifesto are enjoying literary ascendancy precisely because living with pain, suffering, and a hard-to-pin-down cenesthesic sense of unwellness have come to feel like apt representations of our contemporary moment. I therefore want to consider some of the surprising ways that the health or medical humanities (in their critical, pedagogic, and interventionist forms) are well-placed to delineate the therapeutic as an interdisciplinary and politically indeterminate object of study in its own right. To do this, I offer a reading of how therapeutic imaginaries operate in contemporary writings of neuropathological conditions, attending to the work of Johanna Hedva, Porochista Khakpour, and Leslie Jamison. I argue that their illness life writing texts investigate the politics of disorder and order precisely through disclosing their difficulties with compositional expression. In foregrounding the exertion of making/writing, they offer profound, ‘cripistemological’ attestations to the multi-scalar experiences of disenfranchisement otherwise rendered invisible, or inarticulable, in more legitimated kinds of illness description.