'Because Cowards Get Cancer Too’: Autopathography and First-Person Profiling in John Diamond’s columns for The Times
This book chapter was originally published as:
Rickett, C. (2015). 'Because Cowards Get Cancer Too’: Autopathography and First-Person Profiling in John Diamond’s columns for The Times. In S. Joseph & R. L. Keeble, The profiling handbook (pp. 106-121). London: Abramis Academic.
The UK journalist and broadcaster John Diamond chronicled his diagnosis and treatment of throat cancer over a period of almost four years in regular columns for The Times newspaper. His revelations did not employ the traditional tropes of ‘fighting’ and ‘battling’ cancer, and he actively resisted wearing any mantle of valorised courage. In fact, he requested that The Times change the original title of his entries which they had called ‘Diary of Courage’.
In his first-person confessions, Diamond’s embodied sense of an abject and mortal self indexes one of the central threats that illness poses because it potentially represents the antithesis of what society traditionally values: productivity and active participation. Instead of his body enacting the utilitarian story of efficiency and continuity, Diamond’s illness narratives typically portrayed disruption and disorientation. Ironically for a former broadcaster on BBC radio, the progression of cancer saw the removal of his tongue, heightening the performative role writing played in voicing his candid thoughts to an engaged public audience.
As sociologist Arthur Frank notes in his influential text The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics: ‘The illness story begins in wreckage, having lost its map and destination’ (1995: 164). Publishing regular newspaper columns did not ultimately offer Diamond the opportunity to defy physical death through the act of writing, but the profiling of his disease enabled an insight into the value of narrating the ‘wrecked’ self while dying.
Rickett, Carolyn, "'Because Cowards Get Cancer Too’: Autopathography and First-Person Profiling in John Diamond’s columns for The Times" (2015). Arts Book Chapters. 25.
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