Elena Semino: Metaphor and Narrative in Health Communication

Montag, 16.07.2018, 18.00 Uhr

in H11, C.A.R.L.


Both metaphor and narrative are central to how we make sense of and communicate our experiences. This is particularly the case with subjective and sensitive experiences such as illness. In this talk I show how metaphor and narrative can interact in communication about (a) being ill with cancer and (b) suffering from chronic pain. Drawing from a corpus-based study of online writing by people with cancer, I show how a variety of metaphors are used creatively by patients as framing devices to tell different kinds of stories about themselves, and particularly to present themselves as more or less (dis)empowered within the experience of illness. I then consider how creative verbal and visual metaphors can be used to facilitate the telling of stories about chronic pain, which is notoriously hard to express. In particular, I explore the interaction between metaphor and narrative in multimodal artworks about pain and in medical consultations in which visual images are used by chronic pain sufferers to help communicate with clinicians. I conclude with a provisional typology of interactions between metaphor and narrative, and some reflections on the importance of these interactions in communication about illness.