Illness and Suffering   /   Fall 2006   /    Reviews

Bibliographic Review on Illness and Suffering

Heather Burns

Illness can come in the form of disease; abnormal conditions of the body or mind that cause discomfort, dysfunction, or distress to the person afflicted; or injuries, disabilities, syndromes, infections, symptoms, deviant behaviors, and atypical variations of structure and function. For many, illness also involves attempts to understand the suffering it causes. The world’s religions and philosophies explore the fact that life is full of pain and physical adversity, that most humans endure pain of some kind or another: physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Like other life circumstances, this suffering gets categorized and coded into meaning. Therefore, books on how cultures incorporate illness into the social structure and explain it to their members give us more of an understanding of the cues we use to make personal sense of adversity, and the rubrics we use to tell our own stories. In this bibliography, medical anthropology meets literary or narrative theory, and patient stories share the shelves with doctor stories.

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