Reading Response #2

Sam Whitfield

ANTH 272

Grant Glass


Dunlap-Shohl’s graphic memoir is an innovative illness narrative, and as such it could be beneficial to try and classify it under Frank’s models of restitution, chaos, and quest narratives. Looking at these models, I would say this graphic memoir is the most similar to what Frank would consider a quest narrative. This first piece of evidence to support this conclusion is that the book is a memoir, which is commonly used to document quest narratives. On top of this, the narrative itself has many concepts that Frank would consider as an indication of a quest narrative. For one, Dunlap-Shohl is diagnosed with a disease described as “progressive and incurable” (Dunlap-Shohl 7), and he is left to simply deal with it. This sends Dunlap-Shohl on a spiral downards, even bringing him close to suicide, until his wife helps talk him out of it (Dunlap-Shohl 30-31). After this emotional point, Dunlap-Shohl begins his long quest, one to both understand and learn to live with Parkinson’s. However, unlike a traditional quest narrative as described by Frank, Dunlap-Shohl’s quest does not seem to have a return. He departs from his old life when he is diagnosed with Parkinson’s (Dunlap-Shohl 6), and initiates this quest when he takes his first steps learning about Parkinson’s, as exemplified by the chapter “learning to speak Parkinson’s” (Dunlap-Shohl 17), but he never returns from where he started. This breaks from Frank’s model of a quest narrative, but it exemplifies that learning to live with Parkinson’s can be seen as a lifelong process, with no clear end in sight.

Dunlap-Shohl, Peter. My Degeneration: A Journey Through Parkinson’s. Pennsylvania State University Press, 2015.