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HUM 321 M3D1: Illness as a Story

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HUM 321 M3D1: Illness as a Story

In this module we have learned about the “four tensions” that develop when we first we feel ill and then leads to a diagnosis of a disease. We then become patients in relationship to medical practitioners within a medical institution. We have explored how storytelling and humor are ways to make meaning out of our suffering. The two stand-up segments are mini-stories using humor to deal with the frustrations of feeling out of control and at the mercy of modern medical treatment.

Discussion Questions:

Prepare for your discussions by reading Frank, Alecson, Broyard, and Kananithi. Listen to Allen on The Moth and watch stand-up comedians Linden and Bodden. This activity aligns with module outcomes 1, 2, and 3.

  • Anatole Broyard in his article “Intoxicated by my Illness” writes, “When you learn that your life is threatened, you can turn toward this knowledge or away from it. I turned toward it.” Later he writes, “I understood that living itself had a deadline.” Would he have come to this understanding that “living itself had a deadline” if he had chosen to turn away from the knowledge that his life was threatened? Please explain.
  • Humor is often a funny way to bring out some dark truths. Some dark truths that we have been exploring throughout this course have included the reality that we get ill, suffer, grow old, and have to depend on professionals and institutions when we are the most vulnerable. Public displays of our being sick or in treatment make us vulnerable. What do you think is the significance of Allen’s monologue about wearing a scarf versus a wig after she has lost her hair to chemotherapy? What are the dark truths that Linden and Bodden joke about?


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