Strategic uses of narrative in the presentation of self and illness: a research note

Soc Sci Med. 1990;30(11):1195-200. doi: 10.1016/0277-9536(90)90259-u.


Using Goffman's theory and the methods of narrative analysis, the paper examines the divorce account of a white working-class man with advanced multiple sclerosis to show how he constructs a definition of his divorcing situation, and a positive masculine identity, despite massive disability. He accomplishes this positive self through narrative retelling of key events in his biography, healing discontinuities by the way he structures his account in interaction with the listener. The strategic choice of genre, or forms of narrative, guides the impression we form of him. From this case study, I show the usefulness of close textual analysis of biographical accounts of illness.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Defense Mechanisms
  • Divorce / psychology*
  • Employment
  • Fathers / psychology
  • Gender Identity
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Marriage / psychology
  • Multiple Sclerosis / psychology*
  • Self Concept*
  • Self Disclosure*
  • Sick Role