The Right to Be Melodramatic. Illness between Autobiography and Fiction

22 Sep 2021 03.00 PM - 04.30 PM Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public
Organised by:
Graham Matthews

Amidst the rise of fake news and Internet hoaxes, bogus illness accounts are particularly troubling, given their potential to undermine the benefits of online peer-support communities, to erode trust in expert medical knowledge, and to promote ineffective, if not lethal, alternative therapies. In this talk, I will present my project “Illness as Fiction. Textual Afflictions in Print and Online”, which investigates the narrative construction of fake patient identities both in book form and on social media. With the help of illness narratives scholarship, I will question whether these texts constitute an extreme form of pathographical writing and I will illustrate what they can teach us about the relationship between autobiography and fiction, as well as about the role of patients in contemporary medicine.


Dr Maria Vaccarella is Lecturer in Medical Humanities at the University of Bristol. She works on the intersection of literature and medicine, and she is a member of the steering committee of the Centre for Health, Humanities and Science. Her research explores the genre of illness narratives, with a special focus on non-linear and non-triumphalistic plots. She is currently writing a monograph, Doctoring Stories. Biomedicine in Contemporary Western Literature, on what narrative theory can learn from illness narratives. She is also interested in narrative medicine, critical disability studies, narrative bioethics, comparative literature, and graphic storytelling.