Presentation Title

“‘Calming These Nerves’: The Politics of Gender and Disability in Fibromyalgia Rhetoric”

Advisor Information

Tammie Kennedy

Location

UNO Criss Library, Room 112

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Start Date

6-3-2015 3:15 PM

End Date

6-3-2015 3:30 PM

Abstract

In this presentation, which is a portion of my thesis project, I examine the public’s perception of fibromyalgia through a New York Times article published in January 2008. Fibromyalgia is a “contested illness”—one that is often depicted in the public consciousness as a psychosomatic illness or as something simply “made up” by the patient. In January 2008, however, Lyrica was given FDA approval for the treatment of fibromyalgia, and a national conversation began that gave the syndrome greater awareness. However, while fibromyalgia had a chance to become legitimized through these conversations, an article in the New York Times by Alex Berenson called “Drug Approved. Is Disease Real?” actually worked to further marginalize fibromyalgia as a feminized, psychosomatic illness. I argue that this article is representative of what medical rhetorician Judy Segal terms as “kairology,” or the “study of historical moments as rhetorical opportunities” (23). In January of 2008, conversations surrounding Fibromyalgia might have gone a variety of ways, and certainly the patient community was hopeful that the dialogue would be positive and give them validation and hope. However, as my analysis shows, this did not happen. The media coverage, led by this New York Times article, reaffirmed the narrative that the syndrome is not “real” (Berenson). Through cluster criticism, I isolate recurring words and phrases in the article that ultimately reinforce the author’s view of fibromyalgia. Then, I used ideological analysis to examine how this article and the author’s point of view shape subsequent narratives of the syndrome.

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Mar 6th, 3:15 PM Mar 6th, 3:30 PM

“‘Calming These Nerves’: The Politics of Gender and Disability in Fibromyalgia Rhetoric”

UNO Criss Library, Room 112

In this presentation, which is a portion of my thesis project, I examine the public’s perception of fibromyalgia through a New York Times article published in January 2008. Fibromyalgia is a “contested illness”—one that is often depicted in the public consciousness as a psychosomatic illness or as something simply “made up” by the patient. In January 2008, however, Lyrica was given FDA approval for the treatment of fibromyalgia, and a national conversation began that gave the syndrome greater awareness. However, while fibromyalgia had a chance to become legitimized through these conversations, an article in the New York Times by Alex Berenson called “Drug Approved. Is Disease Real?” actually worked to further marginalize fibromyalgia as a feminized, psychosomatic illness. I argue that this article is representative of what medical rhetorician Judy Segal terms as “kairology,” or the “study of historical moments as rhetorical opportunities” (23). In January of 2008, conversations surrounding Fibromyalgia might have gone a variety of ways, and certainly the patient community was hopeful that the dialogue would be positive and give them validation and hope. However, as my analysis shows, this did not happen. The media coverage, led by this New York Times article, reaffirmed the narrative that the syndrome is not “real” (Berenson). Through cluster criticism, I isolate recurring words and phrases in the article that ultimately reinforce the author’s view of fibromyalgia. Then, I used ideological analysis to examine how this article and the author’s point of view shape subsequent narratives of the syndrome.