Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Epilepsy, literature and linguistics: spotlighting subjective symptoms

Sanchez-Davies, Jennifer


Jennifer Sanchez-Davies


Literature can offer a wealth of information about epilepsy: from complex narratives to children’s picture books, it can help broaden people’s understanding, show what it is like to live with epilepsy and provide a medium to which people with epilepsy (PWE) can relate. The latter being particularly important in such cases where seizure experiences are highly subjective, such as those associated with ‘focal seizures’, a common seizure type, which are known for their variable and hard-to-describe symptoms, causing complications with diagnosis as many of the symptoms overlap with those of other psychological health conditions.

Literature, however, has more to offer than acting as a source for demystifying epilepsy. On a disciplinary level, literature is surrounded by different frameworks for linguistic analysis which, importantly, are also applicable to real-life discourse. In particular, the well-established discipline, cognitive stylistics, provides ample theory for analysing the different facets of literature, from narratological and storyworld level, to the intricacies of characterisation revealing the structure behind the presentation of fictional characters’ experiences, attitudes and personalities. Such methods have the potential to transform and decode complex, subjective experiences into manageable pieces of information. This, then, holds great potential for shedding light on the experiences of real-life seizure narratives to the extent that the identified seizure’s linguistic ‘profiles’ can be used to aid real-life situations. Therefore, the present study calls to attention the potential evoked through the convergence between literature, linguistic analysis, fictional characters, PWE and seizure narratives. Extrapolating the qualities of these converging strands can enrich our understanding of the seizure experience, as well as bring to awareness the areas of risk that surround aspects of the diagnosis process.


Sanchez-Davies, J. (2020). Epilepsy, literature and linguistics: spotlighting subjective symptoms. Medical Humanities, 45(4), 371-380.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 12, 2018
Online Publication Date Sep 3, 2018
Publication Date Jan 23, 2020
Deposit Date Oct 9, 2018
Publicly Available Date Oct 9, 2018
Journal Medical Humanities
Print ISSN 1468-215X
Electronic ISSN 1473-4265
Publisher BMJ Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 45
Issue 4
Pages 371-380
Keywords Philosophy; Pathology and Forensic Medicine
Public URL
Publisher URL


Downloadable Citations