Not Your Usual Invisible Illness: Investigating Fake Illness Narratives
Dr Maria VaccarellaZoom
Amidst the rise of fake news and Internet hoaxes, bogus illness accounts are particularly troubling, given their potential to undermine the benefits of online peer-support communities, to erode trust in expert medical knowledge, and to promote ineffective, if not lethal, alternative therapies. Their importance might, however, be inadvertently downplayed in medical humanities research, if we dismiss these accounts as common manifestations of psychiatric conditions (such as factitious disorder), if not of outright criminal activity. In this talk, I will present my project “Illness as Fiction: Textual Afflictions in Print and Online”, which investigates the narrative construction of these de facto invisible illnesses both in book form and on social media. With the help of illness narratives scholarship, I will explore the relationship between these texts and traditional pathographical writing, the role of visual elements in rendering these stories more visible and plausible, and the patient role they propound vis-à-vis contemporary biomedicine.