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Work Package 4

WP 4 - Narrative Medicine 

Literature is used in the training of medical students and health care professionals to increase particular skills, such as paying attention and listening closely to illness accounts. Likewise, writing and reading is used in interventions with chronically ill and vulnerable people in order to sustain or increase quality and/or meaning of life. These approaches have raised a number of critical questions: Is literature instrumentalized and oversimplified in such contexts? How can we describe the value and assess the effect of creative writing and shared reading? Which modes of engagement – knowledge, enchantment, recognition, shock – intersect with the principles and practices of narrative medicine? What are the potentials and limits of narrative medicine?
This work package will focus on 1) methods and practices of teaching students and professionals in health care, 2) writing workshops and 3) reading workshops with ill and vulnerable people, 4) narrative and figurative health communication.

The work package will read and discuss theoretical and empirical texts about narrative medicine. Excellent researchers associated with narrative medicine and medical humanities from Denmark, Scandinavia, Germany and elsewhere will be invited to present their ongoing projects.

WP 4 - Narrative Medicine's 10 thesis:
1) NM takes its point of departure in the experiences of the individual person, even before categorizing and treating this person as a “patient.” Therefore NM understands illness as an individual and subjective experience that resists generalizing and objectifying definitions of disease.

2) NM seeks to foster a better understanding of the self and the other through engagement with literature and art, and it incorporates this engagement in the teaching and development of health care professionals on the conviction that it can enhance quality of care and treatment.

3) NM seeks to enhance quality of life, well-being, and empowerment for people with an illness through the practice of attentive reading and creative writing. 

4) NM scrutinizes the potential of meaning-making when engaging with literature, art, film, tv-series, theatre, music and other art forms, with an awareness that loss of meaning provoked by severe illness is a serious challenge for individuals.

5) NM has a strong foundation in a knowledge of narratives, life narratives and small stories and their role in human identity, recognizing that narratives can be broken and potentially repaired again.

6) NM acknowledges the power of metaphor to conceptualize illness in ways that can empower and disempower individuals. 

7) NM seeks to challenge social and cultural hierarchies and inequalities within health care by minimizing distances between the health care system and the individual citizen.

8) NM aims at finding new ways to define the concept of evidence — ways that respect the medical need for biomedical universality as well as the human need for individual care.

9) NM is genuinely interdisciplinary, combining literary and narrative methods, philosophical approaches to ethics and psychological theories of themind with health care education, medical care and treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care.

10) NM is one out of many interdisciplinary branches within the still widening field of medical or health humanities.

In charge: Associate Professor Anders Juhl Rasmussen and Associate Professor Anita Wohlmann

Members of WP 4

Articles from Tidsskrift for Forskning i Sygdom og Samfund,  Årg. 16 Nr. 31 (2019):
-Stewart-Ferrer and Juul Rasmussen [Juhl Rasmussen]: "'Human First': Teaching close reading and creative writing to medical students"
-Ploug Hansen, Seerup Laursen, Zwisler and Juhl Rasmussen: ""I 'm sure that there is something healing in the writng process""