Metaphors of Mental Illness in Graphic Medicine  book cover
1st Edition

Metaphors of Mental Illness in Graphic Medicine

ISBN 9781032102092
Published October 22, 2021 by Routledge
150 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This book investigates how graphic medicine enables sufferers of mental illness to visualise the intricacies of their internal mindscape through visual metaphors and reclaim their voice amidst stereotyped and prejudiced assumptions of mental illness as a disease of deviance and violence.

In this context, by using Lakoff and Johnson’s conceptual metaphor theory (CMT), this study uncovers the broad spectrum of the mentally ills’ experiences, a relatively undertheorised area in medical humanities. The aim is to demonstrate that mentally ill people are often represented as either grotesquely exaggerated or overly romanticised across diverse media and biomedical discourses. Further, they have been disparaged as emotionally drained and unreasonable individuals, incapable of active social engagements and against the healthy/sane society.

The study also aims to unsettle the sanity/insanity binary and its related patterns of fixed categories of normal/abnormal, which depersonalise the mentally ill by critically analysing seven graphic narratives on mental illness.

Table of Contents


1 Drawing Illness: History, Theory, and the Development of Graphic Medicine

2 The Function of Metaphors in Retelling Stories of Illness

3 Mental Illness and the Politics of Representation

4 Nobody Memoirs as Counter-Discourse: Bipolar Disorder and its Metaphors

5 Visual Metaphors of OCD and Schizophrenia

6 Visualizing Fragmented Selves: Conventional and Creative Metaphors of Depression


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Sweetha Saji is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Mount Carmel College, Bengaluru. Her areas of research interest include Graphic Medicine and Medical Humanities. She has published over ten research articles in SCI and Scopus indexed journals. She is an ad-hoc reviewer for Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics and BMJ Journal of Medical Humanities. She has presented over 12 research papers at International and National conferences organized by prestigious institutions including the University of Granada, Spain, JNU New Delhi, and IIT Madras.

Sathyaraj Venkatesan is Associate Professor of English in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at the National Institute of Technology, Trichy (India). He is the author of 6 books and over 90 research publications that span African American literature, health humanities, graphic medicine, film studies, and other literary and culture studies disciplines. He is most recently the co-author of Infertility Comics and Graphic Medicine (2021) and India Retold (2021).


"A brilliant analysis of the ways comics represent the infinite delicacy of human subjectivity, Metaphors of Mental Illness in Graphic Medicine is both a sophisticated meditation on the complexity inherent in the comics artform and a guide to using that complexity as a therapeutic tool. Drs. Saji and Venkatesan’s analysis marks a new level of confidence for Comics Studies, one that stops apologizing for comics’ fundamental difference from prose, poetry, and film and instead recognizes this very difference as a powerful asset for understanding who we are and how we think." William Kuskin, University of Colorado Boulder

"A welcome challenge to the binary view of sanity through the lens of comics." Matthew N. Noe, Harvard Medical School

"Saji and Venkatesan’s work is essential, illuminating the power of comics to enrich our understanding of subjective mental health experiences, and the impact of those experiences on our daily lives." Nate Powell, National Book Award winning graphic novelist of March