Arthur Frank : The Wounded Storyteller Chapter 3 – Illness as a Call for Stories

On page 56, there is a paragraph that talks about how telling stories, specifically a self-story, is a means to “reaffirm” relationships with oneself (who is experiencing illness/suffering from disease) and the listener. Within this paragraph the phrase “reaffirm” or a variation of it comes up seven times. As I was reading this idea of reaffirming connections to others and to the self leads me to believe that the self is always doubting or at stake of being lost. There is a constant battle to keep a connection to the self or others. There is a consuming quality of an illness to take over identities and networks of people. The prefix “re-” means once more or with return to a previous state. In our case reaffirm means to affirm once more and/or that the state of affirmation was lost but now has been restored. Disease is causing constant disruptions to life that need to be addressed on a repeated basis.

This passage parallels a the following paragraphs on interruptions caused by disease on a ill person’s life. There is a repetition of the word “interruption”. I find repetitions very obvious to see but hard to understand.

In order to understand all the jargon and terms we have related to narratives and storytellers themselves, we must have some understanding of their day-to-day lived experiences. Through the repetition of “reaffirm” and “interruption”, we are experiencing the constant questioning and constant stop-and-go nature. The mood seems frantic and distressed. When someone is constantly trying to gain affirmation, there is a nagging and an anxiety of losing something integral. Through repetition, Frank is allowing us to understand (to a superficial extent) the frequent occurrences that an ill person is experiencing. I found myself taking not, and in a sense pausing by means of interruption, each time I came to the word “reaffirm” or “interruption”.

Frank, Arthur W. The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics. University of Chicago Press, 1997.