Reading Response #3

Defining “you” During a Pandemic

In Barclay’s Vox news article she reports on the the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, and the importance of people self quarantining and self isolating. Throughout the entire article Barclay uses many quotes of officials, the CDC, epidemiologists, and a whole host of other people using language that refers to a majority of people who are not school aged children, not immunocompromised, and not elderly. Healthy people are those that can “do something” in the midst of this crisis. “‘Right now there’s always a doctor available when you need one, but that may not be the case if we’re not careful'”, the “you” in this statement is using assumptions that the reader is currently healthy and has not contracted the virus. “‘If more of us do that, we will slow down the spread of the disease,'” this is trying to appeal to the individual’s agency and emotions towards working for a “greater good” in our society. The audience is able to impact the health care industry in positive and negative ways, but action must be taken now. Barclay wrote, “So even if you’re young and healthy, it’s your job”. The “your” is directly addressing the individual reading the article, it is almost like she is calling the reader out. The previous quotes were not directly speaking to me as the target, necessarily. Officials make these statements about the general “you”: the public, the healthy population. The “you” and “we” are rarely about the sick, the disabled, the disadvantaged. Throughout the article, the is a call to action and an attempt to gather those that are not ill to bring about change to those that are currently and will be effected. It is interesting how “you” is typically seen as a very specific person but it is often used to grab the attention of a group of people.

 

Reference:

Barclay, Eliza. “How Canceled Events and Self-Quarantines Save Lives, in One Chart.” Vox, 10 Mar. 2020, https://www.vox.com/2020/3/10/21171481/coronavirus-us-cases-quarantine-cancellation

How titles and snow create a narrative

Before the book even begins the reader is presented the table of contents: here lies the road map of the graphic memoir that equips the reader with what to expect in the pages to come. The organized list of titles is contrasted by the sporadic background of what appears to be snow. Upon a closer examination we can see circles and even letters. The author can be found in the corner: cold and alone. The difference between the uniform types words and the hand drawn letter and circles can show how the unpredictability PD and the comfort of Dunlap-Shohl’s career are combined into one page. The letters and circles seem to be hand drawn, perhaps the author was practicing his letters as his condition progressed. The black border at the top of the page is almost like a transition of what our reality and narrative is to the author’s story. it is like  Without getting into too much of the contents of the graphic memoir, one is able to graph the type of narrative Dunlap-Shohl is presenting.

The first title explicitly tells us that there is a sad beginning, the author is going to experience his diagnosis of Parkinson’s and is experiencing depressing feelings. From the second title, the reader can infer that he is learning to understand and work around the struggles of having PD. There is an educational experience that comes with an illness that changes one’s life. It is like a culture with its own language and mannerisms and one must adapt to it because it takes on a visible role in one’s life. 

In the third chapter, Parkinson’s is personified to create an identity for the disease: separate from the author. Though they are of the same body, they are two different “people”. This can be interpreted as the author not accepting PD as a part of his life and as a part of himself while also understanding that he is still a multifaceted person though he has a debilitating disease.

The fifth chapter’s title along with the chapter’s first page shows a confusing reality. This notion is supported by the graphic novel-esque form: cartoons and drawings are not reality. They mimic reality but are not a complete copy of what is perceived as 3D or real. The prism is not only changing his view on life but also how the author is viewed by others: “it changes the way you perceive things and the way you are perceived” (Dunlap-Shohl 50). It is a combination of the disease, medication, and his personal thought processes that create his reality. 

The last chapter title reminds me of a musical where musical numbers have reprises, or songs that appeared earlier and entering the story once more. Reprise means to repeat, to show up again: which is odd to think that there is another diagnosis for a disease that does not “leave” or have the ability to “come back”. Yet the last title has a more hopeful meaning in a sense that the author is returning to where he started. There is a tone of finality: a final negotiation of the diagnosis and its meaning for the author’s life. 

A restitution narrative does not seem fitting due to the nature of Parkinson’s, there is no return to a life without Parkinson’s once one is diagnosed: “Yesterday I was healthy, today I’m sick, but tomorrow I’ll be healthy again” (Frank 77). They are restored to their former self, pre-illness with the help of medicine. I don’t think any story about Parkinson’s will fit the restitution narrative. “So mark this moment with gratitude and relief, and anticipate the next ten years” (Dunlap-Shohl 96). This quote contradicts the end of what a restitution narrative should end like, it is ten more years of living with Parkinson’s disease.

The titles are giving the reader a timeline which contradicts the chaos narrative which is anti-narrative in a sense. Chaos narratives “are chaotic in their absence of narrative order” (Frank 97). The progression of Parkinson’s is “linear” for everyone though there is a lack of control because there is no cure for Parkinson’s. Events are not by chance, they are predictable in the sense that the patient will progressively get worse and lose their motor skills. There is a sequence of events that Peter Dunlap-Shohl is telling the reader: there is a beginning, middle, and end. 

 From the titles, there does seem to be a journey that is compliant with a quest narrative. “Quest stories have at least three facets: memoir, manifesto, and automythology” (Frank 119). There is a plot, the genre is a graphic memoir, and there is a story acceptance. 

 

Dunlap-Shohl, Peter. My Degeneration. The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2015. 

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

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.

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