Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Narrative and its discontents
  1. Alastair Morrison
  1. McMaster University Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Alastair Morrison, McMaster University Michael G DeGroote School of Medicine, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada; alastair.morrison{at}


This review considers recent challenges to, and changes within, narrative medicine as a paradigm for humanities-based medical education. It suggests that, while narrative medicine has often been criticised for emphasising narrative at the expense of other dimensions of human experience, newer criticism has focused more on its relationship with other areas of medical knowledge. In different ways, recent work has shown greater interest in taking in humanities perspectives on their own terms, rather than (this is the charge against narrative medicine) instrumentalising them as diagnostic tools. The review concludes by considering how these criticisms might make their way into the institutional realities of medical education, as well as what they might learn from narrative medicine’s success.

  • medical education
  • literature and medicine
  • narrative medicine
  • poetry
  • Medical humanities

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Twitter @alastmorrison

  • Contributors AM is the sole author of the work.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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