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'Waking Is Rising and Dreaming Is Sinking': The Struggle for Identity in Coma Literature

Colbeck, Matthew (2014) 'Waking Is Rising and Dreaming Is Sinking': The Struggle for Identity in Coma Literature. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

This thesis explores the representation of coma within contemporary fiction and non-fiction, including Irvine Welsh’s Marabou Stork Nightmares, Alex Garland’s The Coma, Stephen King’s The Dead Zone, Iain Banks’s The Bridge, Tom McCarthy’s Remainder and Jeff Malmberg’s documentary-film Marwencol. Initially examining these representations of coma through the lens of ‘trauma theory’, I examine how it is frequently depicted as a purely psychological trauma, often ignoring the physical consequences of brain injury and the impact this can have upon the patient’s identity. During the course of my investigation, I draw links between diverse theoretical fields rooted in literary criticism, philosophy, classics and medicine, creating my own critical framework against which representations of coma can be critiqued and which allows me to explore both authors’ and audiences’ fascination with the condition. Ultimately, I examine how misrepresentations have led to the proliferation of confusion and misinformation surrounding coma within the public arena and I look at the potential damage that this has for the real ‘survivors’. My approach is focused on close-reading, drawing out comparisons between archetypal tropes, common in depictions of coma, that have led to the condition being conflated with others states or disorders of consciousness (from the sleep and dream-states, to the chronic disorder of consciousness, the persistent vegetative state), which further contributes to the overall distortion of public perceptions of the condition. As part of my research, I have run a writing group, the members of which are all survivors of coma and brain injury. I have published collections of their work and I draw on this resource of first-person testimony to critique fictional misrepresentations. In doing so, I have produced an addition to the field of trauma-narrative analysis, examining a medical condition that, whilst depicted frequently in literature and the media, has remained largely unexplored within the sphere of literary analysis.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Literature, Coma, Trauma, Brain Injury, Medical Humanities
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > School of English (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield)
Depositing User: Mr Matthew Colbeck
Date Deposited: 08 May 2015 11:04
Last Modified: 08 May 2015 11:04
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/8922

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