The Principles and Practice of Narrative Medicine

By Rita Charon, Sayantani DasGupta, Nellie Hermann, Craig Irvine, Eric R. Marcus, Edgar Rivera Colón, Danielle Spencer, Maura Spiegel


NEW YORK—The Program in Narrative Medicine at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons announces the publication of The Principles and Practice of Narrative Medicine, a seminal book that articulates the ideas, methods, and practice of Narrative Medicine. The book by Oxford University Press, provides the authoritative starting place for any clinicians or scholars committed to learning about and eventually teaching or practicing Narrative Medicine.

The 360-page book will be an important resource, not only for those in the medical field, but also for anyone interested in healthcare. The scope of its inquiry and its refocusing of the way healthcare education is taught in the United States has far-reaching implications that insure the book will find a wide audience beyond the academic and medical worlds. The book was funded by a National Endowment for the Humanities grant that fortified the development of Narrative Medicine, and in 2015, the NEH chose the grant as one of the 50 most important grants given by the NEH in its 50-year history.

Narrative Medicine is a fresh discipline of healthcare that helps patients and health professionals communicate the complex and unique stories of illness. The Principles and Practice of Narrative Medicine brings together the theoretical constructs behind thisnew discipline as well as practical knowledge culled from over a decade of education, research, workshops and collaborative thinking that has crystallized the goals and methods of Narrative Medicine, leading to increasingly powerful means to improve the care that patients receive.

“The goal of Narrative Medicine from its start has been to improve healthcare,” says Rita Charon, an internist and literary scholar who directs the Program in Narrative Medicine at Columbia University and started the Program in 2000 to teach future doctors and medical clinicians how to elicit, interpret and act upon the stories of their patients. “This accounts for the title we have chosen for our book, which echoes William Osler’s 1892 The Principles and Practice of Medicine that set the standards for the practice of internal medicine.”

In the Introduction, Charon talks about the evolution of this new kind of healthcare training. “Narrative Medicine began as a rigorous intellectual and clinical discipline to fortify healthcare with the capacity to skillfully receive the accounts persons give of themselves—to recognize, absorb, interpret, and be moved to action by the stories of others.” The methods described in the book harness creativity and insight to help professionals not just to diagnose and treat patients but to bear witness to what they undergo. Narrative Medicine training in literary theory, philosophy, narrative ethics, and the creative arts increases clinicians’ capacity to perceive the turmoil and suffering borne by patients and to help them to endure the chaos of illness.

A look through the Table of Contents reveals the breadth and depth of this inquiry, from an analysis of “Accounts of Self” in Part I by Maura Spiegel and Danielle Spencer, using works by authors such as Colm Tóibín (“One Minus One”), Alison Bechdel (the graphic novel Fun Home), and Kazuo Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go), to a chapter by Craig Irvine and Rita Charon, who tackle the “Narrative Ethics of Clinical Practice.” In Part III, Sayantani DasGupta offers a penetrating analysis of “The Politics of Pedagogy: Cripping, Queering and Un-homing Health Humanities.”

The second half of the book focuses on the teaching of Narrative Medicine. In Part IV: Close Reading, Rita Charon describes the signature method of Narrative Medicine, which gives rise to attentive listening, a crucial skill for clinicians as well as everyone else in today’s highly distractible world. In Part V: Creativity, novelist Nellie Hermann addresses the thorny question, “Can Creativity be Taught,” providing strategies for writing in the health professions, as well as teaching tools for creative writing in workshops and classrooms—useful chapters for any writing instructor. Medical anthropologist Edgar Rivera Colón addresses “Qualitative Ways of Knowing” in Part VI in a chapter on “Demystifying Qualitative Research Methods.” Also, Eric Marcus and Rita Charon write about concepts in “Clinical Practice” involving transference and transitional space, as well as clinician and healthcare team development. Biographies of all of the authors, as well as a list of the Table of Contents, are available upon request.

About the Publisher
With origins dating back to 1478, Oxford University Press is the world's largest university press with the widest global presence. Its Global Academic Publishing program spans the entire academic and higher education spectrum, including a wide array of scholarly and general interest books, journals, and online products.

Book Details
Hardcover, 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches 360 pages
ISBN: 9780199360192
Also available as an Ebook
List Price: $55

Order online from Oxford

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Donna Bulseco