Bridging memoir with key concepts in narratology, philosophy and history of medicine, and disability studies, this book identifies and names the phenomenon of metagnosis: the experience of learning in adulthood of a longstanding condition. It can occur when the condition has remained undetected (e.g. colorblindness) and/or when the diagnostic categories themselves have shifted (e.g. ADHD). More broadly, it can occur with unexpected revelations bearing upon selfhood, such as surprising genetic test results. Though this phenomenon has received relatively scant attention, learning of an unknown condition is often a significant and bewildering revelation, one that subverts narrative expectations and customary categories. How do we understand these revelations? In addressing this topic Spencer approaches narrative medicine as a robust research methodology comprising
Beginning with Spencer’s own experience, the book explores the issues raised by metagnosis, from communicability to narrative intelligibility to different ways of seeing. Next, it traces the distinctive metagnostic narrative arc through the stages of recognition, subversion, and renegotiation, discussing this trajectory in light of a range of metagnostic experiences—from Blade
Danielle Spencer is the author of Metagnosis: Revelatory Narratives of Health and Identity(Oxford University Press, 2021) and co-author of Perkins-Prize-winning The Principles and Practice of Narrative Medicine (OUP, 2017). Academic Director of the Columbia University Master of Science in Narrative Medicine Program, her scholarly and creative work appears in diverse outlets, from The Lancet to Ploughshares.