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Narratives of melancholy: a humanities approach to depression
  1. Deborah Flynn
  1. Correspondence to Dr Deborah Flynn, Department of Public Health, Southern Connecticut State University, 144 Farnham Avenue, New Haven, CT 06515, USA; flynnd1{at}


This paper explores narrative literature as a means of inquiry into the sense of self in depression. Described as a disease, an identity and a way of life, depression is influenced by both internal and external factors. Although brain research has provided new insight into the relationship between neurotransmitter function and depression, the symptoms are experienced by individuals whose lives are intertwined with historical and sociocultural interpretations of illness and its manifestations. At the intersection of science and the humanities, narratives aid in the interpretation of lived experiences, provide a window to that experience, and a public medium that engages writers and readers as they interpret the world. Engaging narratives to interpret both experience and medical jargon may reveal for both those experiencing depression and those engaged in their care, a way of mediating that experience. Narratives can help dissect and thus illuminate the official language of medicine and psychiatry and the personal language of depression. Such a window can enhance the opportunities for empathy and care.

  • Literature and medicine
  • narrative medicine
  • patient narrative
  • psychiatry

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.