Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



First Adviser

Dolan, Elizabeth

Other advisers/committee members

Singh, Amardeep; Gordon, Scott; Engel, Mary


This dissertation establishes a distinction between the chaos narrative, theorized by Arthur Frank in his book The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics, and what I term the chaotic effect. I argue that Frank’s definition of the chaos narrative echoes the terminology used by Sigmund Freud to diagnose hysterical women. Thus, the narrative is one of blackness, wounding, improper narration, and a lack of plot. Instead, I ground the chaotic effect in a new language: language of possibility, webbing, and elasticity. In order to more fully flesh out how I see a chaotic effect taking shape, I turn to the literature of Virginia Woolf (specifically, Mrs. Dalloway and The Voyage Out) and the theory of Michel Foucault, Gayatri Spivak, Judith Butler, and Martin Buber. These theorists establish a relational identity structure for the chaotic effect based in a Thou-Thou relationship. This identity structure is explored through two case studies, my father’s experience of Strep A and my experience of miscarriage. Finally, I explore the method through which the chaotic effect might exist in published literature through a discussion of Virginia Woolf’s suicide note and diaries and Michelle Montgomery’s Alzheimer’s Diary: A Wife’s Journal.