The peg on which this work is hung is the encounter with ‘medical institutions’. Indeed, the very idea of the illness narrative arose partly in response to a tendency for clinicians to neglect the experiences of the patient, seeing them instead in de-personalized terms as biological problems to be solved with science. Illness narratives are often perceived as a means of reversing this trend and re-empowering the patient.
For that reason, the stories that Off Sick is particularly interested in deal with visits to hospitals and other clinical settings. However, it is the ways in which carers and family members turn their experiences of such encounters into narratives that is the real crux of this research. This emphasis on the stories of those around illness, together with its holistic and comparative approach to contemporary, historical and literary materials, is what makes Off Sick so innovative.
The project’s findings will be showcased through academic presentations and publications, and also through an exhibition (scheduled for June 2011) which is aimed not at academics but at individuals and groups whose lives have been affected by illness and who have their own stories to tell about it. In addition, Off Sick runs a lively, varied and ongoing programme of events and public talks drawing on the expertise of literary scholars, historians, social scientists and medical practitioners.
For more information on the project you can visit the Off Sick website, join the Off Sick Facebook group or follow Off Sick on Twitter. Alternatively please contact the project’s Research Assistant, Dr Richard Marsden, on firstname.lastname@example.org.