The Patient

The Patient

The Patient

The Patient

Synopsis

This collection of ten essays addresses the suffering of patients and how individuals as well as the larger society understand that suffering and try to ameliorate it. Four essays are personal reflections on illness, often interspersed with analyses of literary texts and including original poetry and creative prose. These pieces reveal how suffering is intensely private, how it happens interstitially, between medical appointments, procedures, and treatments. The essays reveal how, for many people, the psychological fragmentation that typically accompanies serious disease is ultimately more threatening to one's overall well-being than the disease itself. The other six essays take a wider view of patienthood, examining it through the lens of history, politics, or culture. As a whole, this thoughtful volume attests to the rich intellectual and personal gains that result from an exploration of the condition of patienthood and what it means to become "patient".

Excerpt

The patient occupies a liminal, unstable position, precariously situated between home and hospital, work and bed, life and death. Although the patient is attended by doctors, nurses, family, and friends, her condition—particularly if it is chronic—threatens to sever her connections with the world as she has known it and to exile her into that fundamental solitude owned by the sick and suffering. Such existential dimensions of sickness have intensified during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in a paradoxical way: benefiting from new diagnostic and therapeutic modalities that would have been unimaginable a few decades ago, patients now live longer than ever. Consequently, in many cases, they also suffer longer than ever. Nor is this suffering a distant abstraction to be discussed solely in the third person; we who read the essays that follow surely come to this topic with personal experience of one who has been—or who will inevitably become —a patient.

It is this inevitability that, in the fall of 2006, brought together an international cadre of scholars on the campus of Bucknell University to explore multiple dimensions of patienthood: autobiographical, sociological, historical, and artistic. From countries including India, Ireland, France, and Canada, forty delegates joined forces to raise critical aware-

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