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Pett, Sarah (2019) 'Rash Reading: Rethinking Virginia Woolf's On Being Ill.' Literature and Medicine, 37 (1). pp. 26-66.

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This article responds to recent criticism of the medical humanities, concentrating on anxieties about the discipline’s failure to take seriously the principles and practices of humanities disciplines such as history and literary studies. Specifically, it argues that in order for literary studies to enter into meaningful and productive conversation with the medical humanities, it must first address its own limited understanding of fiction and life writing about illness. This argument has its origins in the author’s engagement with Virginia Woolf’s essay On Being Ill (1926) and is animated throughout by a commitment to exploring the relevance of her thinking to current scholarship on illness in literature. It shows how Woolf taps into some of the most fundamental issues at stake in the literary representation of illness and gestures towards ways in which writers and readers might begin to work through and beyond these issues. Moving through this analysis into a critique of literary studies approaches to illness, it concludes with a short examination of recent fiction, memoir, and poetry about illness. Looking at the exciting new directions in which these texts extend Woolf’s project, this examination argues that the most radical and sophisticated interventions in the field of illness and literature are to be found in current fiction and memoir about illness – a body of work that has thus far received little attention from scholars in literary studies.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Virginia Woolf; Illness and Literature; Illness in Fiction; Illness Memoir
SOAS Departments & Centres: Legacy Departments > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Centre for English Studies [closed]
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0080 Criticism
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
ISSN: 10806571
Copyright Statement: © 2019 Johns Hopkins University Press. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License:
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 13:31
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council

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