The Uses of Metaphor in Epilepsy Narratives
Andersen, Devon Rose 1981-
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Epilepsy has a long history of social, cultural, and historical interpretations and representations. Individuals diagnosed with this condition must often learn how to interpret and communicate new experiences after epilepsy disrupts their previously held concepts of identity and control. Both the physical experiences related to epilepsy, particularly seizures, as well as the social experiences related to epilepsy, particularly the impact on one’s social identity, can be difficult to communicate using conventional language. As such, individuals with epilepsy might resort to metaphor to convey complex experiences using more accessible language. Previous research has identified a significant role for metaphor use in illness narratives (Kleinman, 1988), as well as in epileptic seizure conceptualizations (Plug et al., 2009), suggesting that metaphor use can be useful in communicating and understanding epilepsy experiences as conveyed through narrative. In order to explore metaphor use in epilepsy narratives, five participants with epilepsy were invited to share written accounts, as well as oral narratives that were then transcribed. These written and oral narratives were analyzed employing structural and thematic narrative analysis, as informed primarily by Riessman (2008) and Charon (2006). Participants’ use of metaphor was as diverse as the participants themselves; the interpretations unearthed a wide range of conceptualizations of epilepsy, shedding light on shame, invisibility, physical struggles, and perceived stigma, with narratives and metaphors that primarily communicated attempts to gain control. A focus on perceived control has commonly been identified in epilepsy literature and has increasingly become a target in psychological treatment approaches for epilepsy. By attending to the metaphor and narrative strategies used to convey epilepsy experiences, including strategies used to convey experiences of control, we can highlight the utility and importance of healthy communication strategies when providing support to those with epilepsy.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
CommitteeMorrison, Melanie; Holtslander, Lorraine; McMullen, Linda; O'Connell, Megan
Copyright DateOctober 2017
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