The medical management of epilepsy has enormously progressed since the introduction of specific anti-convulsants in the 1970s and surgical treatment for worst cases, but social and personal adjustment of patients remains problematic. The ominous cultural history of this condition corroborates that prejudice and discrimination towards people with epilepsy are still widespread worldwide. Successful treatment of epilepsy therefore requires to extend beyond the achievement of seizure control to patients’ full acceptance by, and participation in, society. Our hypothesis is that if epilepsy were to be better understood within its chain of intertextuality, neurologists could improve the efficacy of their practices, by adopting a narrative approach alongside biomedical therapies of the condition. We will explore how a critical discourse analysis of epilepsy can enhance current epileptology by engendering narrative awareness and skills. Initially, we will trace the outline of the contemporary epilepsy discourse in Europe, and verify how stigma and problems of doctor-patient miscommunication are inscribed, enacted and/or resisted in it, examining literary works, recordings of interviews and therapeutic conversations. A catalogue of sociolinguistic and narrative practices will be compiled, creating a frame of reference for a tentative formulation of a programme of ‘narrative epileptology’. By means of reading, literary analysis and reflective writing, this curriculum will enhance neurologists’ interpretive skills and encourage a newly informed engagement with their clinical work. A narrative-informed approach to people with epilepsy could ultimately broaden the impact of traditional neurological therapies, providing patients not only with more personalized treatments, but also with narrative tools tailored to help them make sense of their condition (and its treatment) through guided reassessment of its significance in their particular sociocultural context.
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