The Space Between Words: On the Description of Parkinson’s Disease in Jonathan Franzen’s ‘The Corrections’

Article Summary by Ben Rutter and Rodney Hermeston

Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections (2001) is one of the most prominent novels to feature a character with Parkinson’s Disease. In this paper we look at the language used by Franzen to capture Parkinson’s Disease and to describe the protagonist Alfred Lambert. We use linguistic analysis to consider Franzen’s stylistic choices and how they ultimately shape his account of the disease and Alfred’s experiences. Our attention is on passages such as the following:

…but in the instant realizing he was lost, time became marvellously slow and he discovered hitherto unguessed eternities in the space between words and could only stand and watch as time sped on without him…

Through our analysis we aim to underline the importance of considering linguistic style in novels that explore health, illness and disability. We reflect on the power of health-related literature, but also the potential for the misrepresentation of disability.

Read the article on the Medical Humanities journal website:

Ben Rutter Portrait
Ben Rutter is a lecturer in clinical linguistics in the Division of Human Communication Sciences, Health Sciences School, The University of Sheffield.

Rodney Hermeston Portrait
Rodney Hermeston is a lecturer in linguistics in the Department of English, Leeds Trinity University.

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