Essay #1 Prompt

Healing in Ethnography and Literature (ANTH 272/ENGL 264)

Prompts for Essay #1

Instructions: For this assignment, we are asking you to write a 4-5 page analytical paper on one of topics listed below.  In crafting your essay, please make sure to quote directly from the texts (ensure you use in-text citations) and use one or more techniques of close reading (refer to the Reading Response handout). Though you will likely focus on one or two works, we encourage you to reference concepts or use examples from other works, as well. For instance, you might use Mattingly’s idea of “narrative reasoning,” Frank’s idea of “postmodern illness,” or Metzl/Hansen’s concept of “structural competence” – even if you are not examining the work itself in depth. Refer to your Reading Response handout for helpful tips!

  1. Write an essay that discusses the two vignettes we read from A Fortunate Man. Consider the stories’ similarities and differences, paying careful attention to the role of the narrator. Taken together, would you say the stories create a cohesive portrait: of a physician, of rural medical care, of the patient experience? Or, do the stories diverge in important ways? How might Arthur Frank’s distinction between modern and post-modern medicine apply.
  2. Our class has discussed some of the ways narratives play an important role in everyday life, by helping individuals to a) construct a sense of self; b) diagnose disease and shed light on the experience of illness; c) reason through moral dilemmas; and d) promote change in the world. Please write an essay that draws on one or more of our social science authors (Rita Charon, Arthur Frank, Cheryl Mattingly, Arthur Kleinman, or Jonathan Metzl & Helena Hansen) to identify and explain their view of the social role of narratives. Include in your discussion a close analysis of at least one case study the author uses to illustrate their point(s) about narrative. Then compare their insights with the ways a literary narrative we have read (Mairs, Berger, or Chopin) demonstrates the work of narrative in the world.
  3. Select a section of writing from one of our non-literary pieces (e.g. Mattingly, Frank, Kleinman, Metzl/Hansen). Use three or more techniques of close reading to examine not just what they convey in their article but how they create a compelling narrative. What light does this shed on how they construct a persuasive argument?
  4. Looking very carefully at the woman-centered stories by Berger and Chopin, write an essay that compares/contrasts how the narrators orient the reader to the characters and events within the text. Pay particular attention to how the narrators navigate time & space, insides & outsides. What conclusions can you draw about the differences (or the similarities) in these two works? Are they ultimately stories about “failure,” to use a term from the Berger?  
  5. Drawing on three or more concepts about illness narratives from Frank, write an essay that analyzes Nancy Mairs’s article “On Being a Cripple.” To what extent does her narrative conform to Frank’s framework; to what extent does her story exceed or challenge the categories he establishes? Do other writers provide useful terms for thinking about Mairs’s narrative: for instance, Mattingly’s idea of “chart talk,” or Kleinman’s distinction between sickness and disease? 

Formatting: make sure to follow the formatting rules listed on this website. Motivation: your paper will be docked one point for each mistake (e.g. not numbering your pages) – & given a bonus point for no mistakes!

Submission: upload to our course website if you are in Grant’s Section or to Sakai Dropbox for Julio’s sections by Friday, February 7, by 11:59 p.m.