Illness

Authored by: Suzanne Bost

The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature

Print publication date:  August  2012
Online publication date:  October  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415666060
eBook ISBN: 9780203097199
Adobe ISBN: 9781136221613

10.4324/9780203097199.ch8

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Abstract

“Illness” might not seem like an obvious entry for a companion to literary studies. But if one reads into even biological studies about illness, it becomes clear how literary it is. For instance, narrative is the means by which we communicate our corporeal experiences to medical professionals, and stories are often the means by which we heal and cope. Illness is always culturally embedded and, as such, must be analyzed as a text whose meanings emerge through particular cultural lexica, stigmas, and beliefs. Illness and suffering are frequent motifs in literary plots, as a source of tension to be resolved and a sign of worlds out of balance. In the case of Latino/a literature, in particular, illness is often invoked as a symptom of conquest, derived in part from the literal plagues such as smallpox that decimated indigenous populations during the European conquests of the Americas.

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