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Med Humanities 37:130-131 doi:10.1136/jmh.2011.007658
  • PostScript
  • Book review

Works of Illness: Narrative, Picturing and the Social Response to Serious Disease

Authored by Alan Radley. Published by InkerMen Press, Ashby-de-la Zouch, 2009, Paperback, pp 244. ISBN-13: 978-0-9562749-0-8, £ 13.95.
  1. Stella Bolaki
  1. Correspondence to Dr Stella Bolaki, School of Critical Studies, University of Glasgow, 5 University Gardens. Glasgow, G12 8QQ; stella.bolaki{at}glasgow.ac.uk

Alan Radley's previous work has focused on the relationships between sociology, aesthetics and ethics, with the overall aim of bringing these disciplines together. He has been at the forefront of the recent move within the social sciences towards a consideration of illness representations as anchoring social practices, arguing for the need to draw together the social and the representational, the discursive and the visual, and the aesthetic and the political. Works of Illness continues this interdisciplinary commitment by broadening the scope of the discussion about experiencing illness in contemporary society. Radley does this by ‘assembling a socio-cultural view of health and illness that underlines the semantic and aesthetic potential’ of the wide range of narratives and artworks of living with serious illness that he examines under the term ‘works of illness’.

The introductory chapter outlines a series of exchanges by art critics and social scientists debating whether illness representations ‘are art’ or constitute ‘good science’, which attests to the complex and contested space that such representations occupy across disciplines that maintain a sense of rigid boundaries between art and science. The common problem Radley identifies is that both camps approach such representations as transparent windows into a person's experience, which raises the thorny question of truthfulness or …