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Close Reading: The Signature Method of Narrative Medicine 

Close Reading: The Signature Method of Narrative Medicine
Close Reading: The Signature Method of Narrative Medicine

Rita Charon

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date: 22 January 2022

Teaching healthcare professionals how to be close readers assures that they can listen with attention and empathy to what their patients tell them. The close reader pays attention to such narrative features as temporality, narrative situation, voice, metaphor, and mood. This chapter describes the origins of close reading in the 1920s and its subsequent contentious development within literary studies. It describes the salience of the skills learned from close reading for the practice of narrative medicine. The chapter examines such consequences of close reading as relationship-building among learners and individual awareness of the interior processes of the reader. Close reading helps narrative medicine to achieve its goals of justice in healthcare, participatory practice, egalitarian learning, and deep relationships in practice. With the benefit of the capacities learned in close reading, clinicians and their patients can face the unknown, tolerating the ambiguity that always surrounds illness.

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