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Centre for Uses of Literature
New publication

Anita Wohlmann publishes new book on illness and metaphor

Metaphor in Illness Writing: Fight and Battle Reused

A new book by Associate Professor Anita Wohlmann has just been published by Edinburgh University Press. Metaphor in Illness Writing argues that even when a metaphor appears problematic and limiting, it need not be dropped or dismissed. Metaphors are not inherently harmful or beneficial; instead, they can be used in unexpected and creative ways. This book analyses the illness writing of contemporary North American writers who reimagine and reappropriate the supposedly harmful metaphor ‘illness is a fight’ and shows how Susan Sontag, Audre Lorde, Anatole Broyard, David Foster Wallace and other writers turn the fight metaphor into a space of agency, resistance, self-knowledge and aesthetic pleasure. It joins a conversation in Medical Humanities about alternatives to the predominance of narrative and responds to the call for more metaphor literacy and metaphor competence.


In lucid and lively prose, Anita Wohlmann greatly expands our understanding of metaphor while combining deft close readings with practical application. This marvellous account of metaphor’s many uses and reuses will become an essential reference point for literary studies as well as the medical humanities.

Rita Felski, University of Virginia and University of Southern Denmark

Anita Wohlmann argues that metaphors in illness writing, however common, can be upcycled in dynamic ways, even reborn from ashes. I am convinced! Her book is a metaphorical gem, a work of meticulous inquiry into trope redux and renewed. I discovered deep value at each footfall. Beautifully written, mightily provocative.

Alan Bleakley, University of Plymouth
Editing was completed: 01.10.2022