Thursday, January 29, 2009

Graphic books on medicine

It just has to be the coolest topic ever for an MA in Medical Humanities: investigating medical narratives in comics (or 'graphic fiction' as it has come to be known). The man with this enviable task is Ian Williams is a GP, an artist, and now a student at Swansea University. Graphic novels are fascinating for their potent combination of image and text. The first one I came across was 'Mom's Cancer' (reviewed on this blog here). This is a growing genre of pathography: Williams currently lists 24 books on his website. Just this week, Matthew Johnstone and his wife Ainsley were talking on Radio 4's Midweek about their new illustrated self-help guide on depression (aimed mainly at carers) called 'Living with the Black Dog'.

Williams has launched a beautifully designed (as one might expect) website as a resource for health professionals,, dedicated to reviewing and discussing
graphic books with a medical theme. Inspired by Arthur Frank's notion of 'The Wounded Storyteller', Williams believes that these books are examples of how sharing the profound experience of illness with others is often part of a healing process. He argues that it is high time that graphic fiction was taken seriously, suggesting that comics and graphic novels could play a valuable role in:
  • Reflecting or changing cultural perceptions of medicine
  • Relating the patient/carer/provider experience
  • Enabling discussion of difficult subjects
  • Helping other sufferers or carers

Although studying comics and graphic books sounds like fun in the name of academia, these books are often harrowing, made all the more poignant by the use of the comic-strip format with its often-ironic 'punchline'.

We wish Ian all the best with his studies and look forward to reading about his conclusions.

1 comment:

vanraj said...

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