Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication Studies

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

The field of health communication places considerable attention on coping with cancer, typically using social scientific approaches to investigate uncertainty, information, and/or social networks. Social scientific models of coping with adolescent cancer often measure how behaviors seek to manage cancer’s uncontrollability and/or uncertainty; however, how adolescents cope with cancer has been unclear. Short-term studies show adolescents typically and atypically cope. Long-term studies show a significant portion of survivors exhibit post-traumatic stress. The narrative and performative turns expose the role narratives and performatives play in shaping human subjects as meaning makers rather than merely information sharers. A narrative subject reframes cancer’s uncertainty and uncontrollability to be a matter of storytelling through which patients embark on a liminal journey of illness situated in socially shared narratives. The performative turn adds to a narrative perspective by foregrounding the contingency of the body and how bodily acts (re)produce subjective identities, and where performed actions (re)materialize sociocultural meanings. From this perspective, coping with a cancer identity is a matter of the performative, through which patient bodies negotiate liminal identities. I view coping as an act of embodied apperception: a series of acts by a narrative and performative subject. What the patient says and does while telling a cancer story exposes complex narrative and performative negotiations of coping with a cancer identity. To explore coping with an adolescent cancer identity, I apply critical self-reflexive (auto)ethnography through which I first tell my cancer story. By foregrounding the narrative and performative approach, I reveal: (1) a cancer diagnosis and its narrative as language in action; (2) the uncertain and uncontrollable narrative liminality of adolescent cancer patients; and (3) narratives and their discursive structures create performed actions, narratives, and narrative identities as much as they are created by performed actions, narratives, and narrative identities. Next, I apply a narrative and performative analytic as I critically and reflexively engage four videos of adolescents telling a “my cancer story.” The analysis of these videos maps a dramatic framework for these cancer stories through which adolescent patients embody liminality’s redress through reintegration as normative and/or embody schism through embracing a non-normal body.

Date

6-18-2018

Committee Chair

Terry, David

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