Études at Play : Narrative Identity in Adolescents with Chronic Illness in Contemporary Young Adult Literature

  • Pam Harvey

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Storytelling gives voice to people’s experiences, assisting them in making meaning of their lives and their place in it. It is also integral to a person’s narrative identity and the sense of self created through these stories. Philosopher Paul Ricoeur asserts that narrative identity is not present at a story’s beginning but born in the telling, creating a future for the narrator. For some, the effects of ongoing illness complicate narrative identity and storytelling becomes an avenue to express what it is to live with the effects of disease and how it shapes self. The resultant stories are known as illness narratives.
    Illness narratives form a burgeoning category of autobiography but published texts are limited to mostly adult storytellers. This thesis examines contemporary young adult fictional illness narratives (‘illness fictions’) as a cohort of books that act as transformative texts in the interpretation and understanding of the illness experience. Sociologist Arthur Frank’s illness narrative typology, based on Paul Ricoeur’s idea of narrative identity and consisting of three categories, provides a lens through which to interrogate these texts and their narrative type.
    While Frank’s typology is a useful initial tool, its application to stories of ill adolescents is restrictive. This thesis extends the illness narrative typology to five categories in order to create a more nuanced framework for the investigation and creation of illness. The additional categories enable particular stories of adolescents in particular to be recognised. With an advanced understanding of illness narrative types for adolescents, writers are more empowered to create authentic illness fictions for their readers.
    The thesis is in two volumes. The exegesis investigates illness narratives, the development of narrative identity and the application of a typology for classifying and writing illness fictions; and the creative work showcases the application of illness narrative types in a novel for young adults.
    Date of Award2018
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorTony Eaton (Supervisor) & Belle Alderman (Supervisor)

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