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Free Content ‘Ik kan niet genezen van een kwaal die ik niet ken’

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‘I Cannot Recover from an Illness I Do Not Know’. Depression and Intertextuality in Kikker gaat fietsen (2008) by Maarten van Buuren

The last two decades have witnessed the growth and popularity of autobiographical texts featuring clinical depression in which a first person narrator describes and interprets the experience of mental illness. Existing studies have mainly focused on how these illness narratives can inform clinicians and the broader public about patients’ experiences. This approach, however, hardly acknowledges the constructed, textual, and ‐ therefore ‐ mediated status of the autobiographies. As a consequence, important other functions of the texts have been neglected. By studying the Dutch autobiography Kikker gaat fietsen. Of over het leed dat leven heet (2008) written by Maarten van Buuren, this article demonstrates that an analysis of the narrative and intertextual strategies used to represent depression offers new perspectives on the functions of autobiographical illness narratives. (1) I will show that in Van Buuren’s text descriptions of personal experiences alternate with numerous references to neurobiological terminology and theories. (2) I will demonstrate that the ‘I’ appropriates these insights in order to get a grip on ‐ and give meaning to ‐ his illness experiences, a process by which medical knowledge becomes transformed and evaluated. (3) I will argue that the autobiography, as such, has an important role in the dissemination of knowledge about depression in contemporary culture persistently preoccupied with the understanding and (self) management of health and illness.
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Keywords: autobiography; depression; illness narrative; intertextuality; knowledge

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Email: [email protected]

Publication date: March 11, 2018

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  • Het tijdschrift Nederlandse Letterkunde is een wetenschappelijk, peer-reviewed tijdschrift voor de Nederlandstalige letterkunde. Het tijdschrift is een podium voor vakbeoefening in al haar vormen en facetten. De diverse bijdragen beslaan in hun totaliteit het gehele spectrum van Nederlandstalige letterkunde van de Middeleeuwen tot heden. Een jaargang Nederlandse Letterkunde telt drie afleveringen waarvan er steeds één aan een actueel thema gewijd wordt.

    The Dutch-language journal Nederlandse Letterkunde (Dutch Literature) is an academic peer-reviewed journal for Dutch literature. The various contributions cover the entire spectrum of Dutch literature from the Middle Ages to the present. Nederlandse Letterkunde publishes three issues a year of which one is devoted to a contemporary topic.
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