Unlike any existing studies of the medical humanities, The Chief Concern of Medicine brings to the examination of medical practices a thorough—and clearly articulated—exposition of the nature of narrative. The book builds on the work of linguistics, semiotics, narratology, and discourse theory and examines numerous literary works and narrative "vignettes" of medical problems, situations, and encounters. Throughout, the book presents usable expositions of the ways storytelling organizes itself to allow physicians and other health care workers (and even patients themselves) to be more attentive to and self-conscious about the information—the "narrative knowledge"—of the patient's story.
"In The Chief Concern of Medicine, Ronald Schleifer and Jerry Vannatta ambitiously provide a detailed philosophical defense for employing narrative in medicine, a set of practical checklists to guide narrative work, and much in between. While the ultimate focus of the clinician must be the patients' narratives, they make a strong case for studying "art" narratives (works of great authors of literature) as a way of learning about narrative form. This book will assume an important place as medical educators grapple with the challenges of moving ethics and humanities, including narrative studies, from the periphery to the center of how we train health professionals for the future."
—Dr. Howard Brody, UTMB Health Institute for the Medical Humanities at the University of Texas Medical Branch
"The Chief Concern of Medicine is a beautiful book: deeply humane, stirringly imaginative, and helpfully systematic. The authors have figured out how to use the deep but unsystematic illuminations of literature and moral philosophy to create a teachable and challenging discipline that can be taught to doctors, increasing dramatically the level of human understanding present in the doctor-patient encounter. All of us who have been, are, or will be patients—and of course that is all of us—are deeply in their debt."
—Martha C. Nussbaum, The University of Chicago
"A formidable and enticing book, one that works hard to situate the burgeoning field of Medical Humanities solidly within the landscape of critical thinking. It represents significant contributions both to scholarship in Medical Humanities and to the continuing education of physicians and medical students in the skills and narrative arts vital to effective clinical encounters, diagnoses, and decision-making. Some of its chapters should be required reading for all prospective and practicing physicians."
—James Bono, University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
Jacket art: Edvard Munch. The Sick Child, 1907. Oil paint on canvas ©Tate, London 2012.