Literary texts—from autobiographies and novels to self-help books and poetry—that explore experiences of illness can give unique and poignant insights into the states of mind and lives of individuals affected by physical or mental ill health. This chapter investigates the creative use of such texts to aid deeper understanding and knowledge in practitioners beyond the usual limits of health-care settings, and to support people affected as well their families and carers. It outlines theoretical approaches to the use of literature in health care and therapy, and also provides detailed close readings of select poems on the neglected topic of male eating disorders. The case study on this corpus of texts, collected through the “Hungry for Words” project, shows the particular potential of poetry to articulate a “hunger for words” and to promote a greater understanding of illness, using this under-researched area of eating disorders as an example. The desired outcomes of this chapter are to highlight the contributions literary texts can make to compassionate health care and to a greater understanding of oneself and others when dealing with experiences of illness.
Bartel, H., & Baker, C. (2020). Poetry and male eating disorders. In P. Crawford, B. Brown, & A. Charise (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Health Humanities (248-254). London: Taylor & Francis (Routledge)