Dark Night: The Illness Narrative

The Sick Child - Edvard Munch

The Sick Child – Edvard Munch

“Pale horse, pale rider done taken my lover away,” a line from an old spiritual hymn, is the inspiration for the title of Katherine Anne Porter’s novella, Pale Horse, Pale Rider. I taught this text, a rare narrative of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, to my students last semester because it provides an accessible introduction to stream-of-consciousness writing. More importantly, Porter’s story is autobiographical, as the author herself nearly succumbed to the flu. Through stream-of-consciousness, she shows the effect of a collective trauma on the individual psyche, a dark night of the soul.

Resistance

By Masao Nakagami [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Masao Nakagami [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Jack White found the pulse of “Seven Nation Army” at a sound check in Australia. “What do you think of this?” he said to a friend who was passing by, before launching into what would become one of the most famous guitar riffs in history. (“It feels less like someone wrote it than it was unearthed. It’s something that’s always been there,” Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine told the BBC in 2014, a decade after the song’s release). The song that, in time, was to come of that riff has been blasted from stadium loudspeakers across the world, has stood atop Billboard’s rock chart, and now holds a place in Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Songs of All Time.

“It’s all right,” White’s friend said.

Bookmarkings

"Green Gables House, Cavendish, P.E.I." by Markus Gregory / Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons

“Green Gables House, Cavendish, P.E.I.” by Markus Gregory / Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons

At a writing workshop, I’m asked a question I’ve often been dishonest in answering: “What writer(s) have influenced/influence you the most?” On such questionnaires, I carefully write the canon worthy names. Sometimes T.S. Eliot, Walt Whitman, and Emily Dickinson make the cut. Or Flannery O’Connor, Shakespeare, Marilynne Robinson, and W.S. Merwin. But I know my list is lying. I know that no matter how many modern and classic and award winning names I identify and no matter how much each of those writers have and do influence me on a near daily basis, I’m never really telling all the truth unless I include her.

Unless I talk about L.M. Montgomery.

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Flickr photo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Flickr photo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I have a friend who was once viewing an article on Mother Theresa. Somehow, the advertisements on the webpage were not set to “Catholic approved,” since, alongside the picture of the now saint, was an ostentatious full screen ad for Plan B. Seriously. It was a perfect example of “what’s wrong with this picture.”  Recently, as I was merrily skipping/clicking links that looked interesting, I came to a well-known religious leadership publication. Maybe it was the devil, because he knew it would assuredly annoy me, but the thing my eye caught under the name of the journal was the two words placed next to each other. It looked like this:

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