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Speaking with Frankenstein.

Authors
  • Lewis, Jayne1
  • Shapiro, Johanna2
  • 1 Department of English, University of California, Irvine, 92697, USA. [email protected]
  • 2 School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, 92697, USA.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Medical Humanities
Publisher
Springer-Verlag
Publication Date
Jun 01, 2022
Volume
43
Issue
2
Pages
267–282
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s10912-020-09653-3
PMID: 32820412
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

This collaborative essay experimentally applies the insights of Mary Shelley's 1818 gothic fantasy Frankenstein to clinical interactions between present-day physicians and the patients they, akin to Shelley's human protagonist, so often seem to bring (back) to life. Because that process is frequently fraught with unspoken elements of ambivalence, disappointment, frustration, and failure, we find in Shelley's speculative fiction less a cautionary tale of overreach than a dynamic parable of the role that the unspoken, the invisible, and the unknown might play in contemporary physician/patient relationships. Playing with that parable, we consider its relevance to four often unacknowledged dynamics that shape physician/patient interaction: commitment to a false binary of life and death; the tyranny of normative aesthetics; shared negative affect; and the ethics of care and care-denial. To "speak with Frankenstein" is, we show, to make space for the otherwise unspeakable. The result is a more complete model of narrative medicine that accommodates to its ideal of open communication and full attention the persistence of what cannot be said, seen, or known--only imagined and approximated. © 2020. Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

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