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Narrating stroke: the life-writing and fiction of brain damage
  1. Martina Zimmermann
  1. Correspondence to Dr Martina Zimmermann, Department of Pharmacology, School of Pharmacy, Biocentre N260, Max-von-Laue Str. 9, Goethe University Frankfurt, 60438 Frankfurt am Main, Germany; martina.zimmermann{at}


Cerebro-vascular events are, after neurodegenerative disorders, the most frequent cause of brain damage that leads to the patient's impaired cognitive and/or bodily functioning. While the medico-scientific discourse related to stroke suggests that patients experience a change in identity and self-concept, the present analysis focuses on the patients' personal presentation of their experience to, first, highlight their way of thinking and feeling and, second, contribute to the clinician's actual understanding of the meaning of stroke within the life of each individual. As stroke ‘victims’ necessarily speak from the position of having undergone very abrupt degeneration followed by being confronted with a gradual relocation within their ‘recovery’, the present study addresses how narrative texts describe the condition, that is, the insult itself and its impairing consequences for body and mind, and how patients portray themselves within their illness. Furthermore, given that all illness narrative must remain non-representative, especially when exploring conditions that impair cognitive abilities, autobiographically inspired fiction, equally, contributes to neuroscientific perspectives on embodiment: it gives further insight into how the condition is perceived and alerts us to those aspects of the experience that are understood as particularly momentous.

  • Brain damage
  • stroke
  • life-writing
  • autobiografiction
  • fiction
  • English literature
  • creative writing
  • rehabilitation medicine including disability
  • literary studies
  • end of life care

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  • Funding The authors are indebted to the Lesmüller Foundation for financial support.

  • Competing interests None.

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