Reading Response 2

The graphic memoir is a narrative genre that uses the visual comic strip format as a medium to convey a personal account. More specifically, Dunlap-Shohl uses his expertise as a cartoonist to convey his journey through becoming diagnosed and living with Parkinson’s Disease in his “pathography”, My Degeneration. Particularly, the use of visual metaphors and personification allow Dunlap-Shohl to communicate the different aspects of Parkinson’s Disease in an easily digestable and relatable manner to the reader.

On pages 24-29, Parkinson’s Disease manifests itself as a nefarious green man dressed in business attire with the arrogance of a businessman and gives Dunlap-Shohl a visit. Instead of seizing all of his assets, Parkinson’s Disease instead attempts to seize Dunlap-Shohl’s life, from his motor skills, to his job, relationships, and sense of self. By creating a physical representation of Parkinson’s Disease, Dunlap-Shohl allows the reader to envision what it’s like to have Parkinson’s. It’s hard to imagine and convey life without precise motor skills, but the sheer gravity of the fear associated with it can be relatable through a businessman trying to screw your life over and take everything from you. This also creates an image of a villain or something to fight and “beat”, similar to how people say they’re “fighting” or “beating” a disease.

On pages 86-89, Dunlap-Shohl literally takes on this fight through playing interactive video games and creates a fantasy of him boxing the aforementioned physical manifestation of Parkinson’s Disease. The various treatments and lifestyle changes Parkinson’s patients can take to try to “fight” the disease. However, there are limitations to this personification, as in reality, there is no green man to beat up and instead, Parkinson’s patients are fighting an abstract, nonphysical disease, allowing the reader to understand the struggle a long drawn out “fight” against Parkinson’s can be, as treatments improve and patients are living longer and longer.

On pages 90-92, Dunlap-Shohl creates another metaphor for Parkinson’s through Philippe Petit’s World Trade Center walk. Dunlap-Shohl conveys the perceived loneliness of the disease as only the Parkinson’s patient has to walk the tightrope, but taking another perspective at the disease, the patient is surrounded by a support group of family, friends, and medical professionals to help their journey through living with Parkinson’s.

  1. Dunlap-Shohl, Peter. My Degeneration: a Journey through Parkinson’s. The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2016.



Reading Response 1

What are examples of Kleinman’s “illness” as subjective lived experience of a disorder? 

Arthur Kleinman’s definition of “illness” is “how the sick person and the members of the family or wider social network perceive, live with, and respond to symptoms and disability.” Illness problems arise from the disorder that cause disruptions in the sick person and their family member’s lives. Some examples Kleinman brings up when defining “illness” include headaches disrupting workflow, leading to feelings of frustration, or disfigurement leading to worsening body image and self esteem. These illness complaints are what the sick person brings up to their practitioner to help them cope and go back to a “normal” life. 


Why is it important to distinguish “sickness” from both “illness” and “disease?”

Kleinman’s definition of “sickness” extrapolates the experiences a sick person and their family members goes through but across a macrosocial population. This distinction is important as the way a society perceives the sick person can shape the manner of how the sick person describes their complaints to their practitioner. The way a society views a disorder also alters the way practitioners view and interpret symptoms.


Kleinman refers to “radically materialist pursuit of the biological mechanism of disease” what does “materialist” mean here?

The context of “radically materialist pursuit of the biological mechanism of disease” refers to the faults of the post-modern practitioner with their desperate pursuit to understand the scientific mechanisms of disorders with their “disease” point of view. Materialist in this statement refers to how practitioners value and prioritize the biomedical view of disorders over the underlying “illness” complaints plaguing the sick person and their family.