This year, the theme of the TILTS (Texas Institute for Literary & Textual Studies) Symposium focused on the theme of Literature and Medicine. The lecture series closed with Rita Charon, a professor at Columbia University in the Department of Clinical Medicine and Director of the Program in Narrative Medicine.
In her talk, Rita Charon spoke of narrative medicine and the accusatory attitude with which physicians interact with patients. Rather than listening patiently, doctors will “suspect” a patient of having a disease and confirm the patient’s “denial” of certain behaviors. Charon’s speech on the prevalence of accusatory language used by medical physicians reflects new commentary on the prevalence of aggressive language.
Author Eula Biss also makes this argument in her latest novel: On Immunity: An Innoculation. In a lecture hosted in the Joynes Reading Room, Biss makes note of the use of antagonistic and almost fighting language as doctors refer to an “invasion” and a “colonization” of bacteria.
Rather than focusing directly on a patient’s symptoms and rushing to a diagnosis, narrative medicine allows the physician to develop a closer relationship to the patient through listening to the information and stories that the patient has chosen to disclose. Narrative medicine is a new branch of thinking that could very well alter our understanding of medicine. As the field grows, one can’t help but feel excited by what narrative medicine may have to offer us in the future.