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Book and Media Reviews
June 20, 2007

The Self in Health and Illness: Patients, Professionals and Narrative Identity

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: John L. Zeller, MD, PhD, Fishbein Fellow.

JAMA. 2007;297(23):2641-2645. doi:10.1001/jama.297.23.2641

This book, edited by Frances Rapport of Swansea University and Paul Wainwright of St George's University of London, explores changes in patients' constructions of self and identity engendered by illness. The book is organized into 9 chapters that provide a sampling of approaches used by patients and health professionals to narrate, perform, and modify their identity in the context of illness.

The first chapter, by Nigel Rapport, examines the life and work of the English painter Stanley Spencer. As this artist sought to transform the profane elements of everyday life into the spiritual and transcendent, he was able to generate an affirmative statement of his own identity in a world constructed by and for himself. Rapport suggests that Spencer was able to attain something very rare: a social environment created in his own image.

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