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Virginia Woolf's daring essay on how illness transforms our perception, plus an essay by Woolf's mother from the caregiver's perspective: "Revelatory." -- Booklist

This new publication of "On Being Ill" with "Notes from Sick Rooms" presents Virginia Woolf and her mother, Julia Stephen, in textual conversation for the first time in literary history. In the poignant and humorous essay "On Being Ill," Woolf observes that though illness is part of every human being's experience, it is not celebrated as a subject of great literature in the way that love and war are embraced by writers and readers. We must, Woolf says, invent a new language to describe pain. Illness, she observes, enhances our perceptions and reduces self-consciousness; it is "the great confessional." Woolf discusses the taboos associated with illness, and she explores how it changes our relationship to the world around us. "Notes from Sick Rooms," meanwhile, addresses illness from the caregiver's perspective. With clarity, humor, and pathos, Julia Stephen offers concrete information that remains useful to nurses and caregivers today.

This edition also includes an introduction to "Notes from Sick Rooms" by Mark Hussey, founding editor of Woolf Studies Annual, and a poignant afterword by Rita Charon, MD, founder of the field of Narrative Medicine. In addition, Hermione Lee's brilliant introduction to "On Being Ill" offers a superb overview of Woolf's life and writing.

"Woolf's inquiry into illness and its impact on the mind is paired with her mother's observations about caring for the body. Julia Stephen... had no professional training but took to heart Florence Nightingale's precept that every woman is a nurse and emulated Nightingale's best-selling Notes on Nursing with her own "Notes from Sick Rooms." In this long-overlooked, precise, and piquant little manual, Stephen is compassionate and ironic, observing that everyone deserves to be tenderly nursed while addressing the small evil of crumbs in bed. This unprecedented literary reunion of mother and daughter is stunning on many fronts, but physician and literary scholar Rita Charon focuses on the essentials in her astute afterword, writing that Woolf's perspective as a patient and Stephen's as a nurse together illuminate the goal of care -- to listen, to recognize, to imagine, to honor." -- Booklist

"Woolf and Stephen will certainly change the way readers think of illness." -- Publishers Weekly

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  • Publication Date: November 6, 2012
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • Lending: Disabled
  • Print Length: 161 Pages
  • File Size: 4,534 KB

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