Date of Award

Summer 8-2019

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis



First Advisor

Emily B. Stanback

Advisor Department



In recent years, illness narratives have risen in popularity. Women’s medical narratives in particular have gained momentum in the literary world, and they often share commonalities including the inherent theme of medical resistance and an emphasis on the power dynamic between patients and physicians. This thesis will examine two pathographies, Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted and Porochista Khakpour’s Sick, in the contexts of gender and disability studies, as well as theories of illness narratives. I examine how each text resists medical authority, and I also closely survey the physician-patient relationships within each text. The themes of gender and disability emerge in both Khakpour’s and Kaysen’s texts, but in other ways the texts approach illness differently. Using documents from her institutionalization in the 1960s, Kaysen humanizes her fellow patients and challenges medical authority using humor. In contrast, Khakpour uses a storytelling mode, emphasizing location and dislocation and the importance of her Iranian immigrant status and drug addiction to her experience of Lyme disease. These pathographies challenge medical authority through personal narrative.