Date of Degree

9-2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Comparative Literature

Advisor

Anna Ayşe Akasoy

Committee Members

Joy Connolly

Helena Rosenblatt

Subject Categories

Arabic Language and Literature | Classical Literature and Philology | Comparative Methodologies and Theories | Comparative Philosophy | Ethics and Political Philosophy | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Intellectual History | Islamic World and Near East History | Medical Humanities | Other Classics | Other Philosophy | Translation Studies

Keywords

Storytelling, Narrative Medicine, Reception Studies, Galen, Shahrazad, Rousseau

Abstract

Are stories healing? This dissertation introduces and explores an idea that I call “the storytelling cure.” With this term I capture a set of related notions about the healing power of stories that span literary studies, intellectual history, philosophy, and medical practice. Through a comparative study I make the case for “the storytelling cure” as a cross-cultural, multiconfessional, and multilingual phenomenon of great age, complexity, and power, worthy of the most sustained attention by the contemporary field of Comparative Literature. Concretely, this dissertation presents three extended case studies of “storytelling cures” from three different kinds of texts (case history, frame tale, thought experiment), three different cultures (Greco-Roman, Islamicate, early modern European), and three different languages (ancient Greek, classical Arabic, French). The key texts are Galen’s On Prognosis, the “Frame Tale” of the collection of stories known today as 1001 Nights, and The Second Discourse of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In drawing up these texts for comparative analysis, my goal was to balance a sense of the cultural and historical differences that make comparisons illuminating with the rendering power of a synthetic study. Galen, Shahrazad, and Rousseau’s storytelling cures are each quite different, and they occur in different social contexts as well, but they are unified by a shared historical and conceptual backdrop––the reception history of the Galenic medical tradition, as it makes its way from Galen’s own day into the ʿAbbāsid translation movement and on to the medical schools of Montpellier.

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