Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Senior Honors Thesis

Department or School

History and Philosophy


For millennia, religion and medicine have coexisted in an ever changing relationship. In the beginning the two were almost inseparable as many believed that illness was the direct effect of angering their God, deities, or spirits. With the advancements of medical technology religion’s grasp on medicine has weakened and shifted. Religion still plays a part in medicine, however, it is minor and only among specific people. The primary role is now in the area of coping, or emotional healing. Traditional religious coping methods include prayer, meditation, and special rituals. One non-traditional technique, that is a relatively recent addition, is the pathography.

What is a pathography? Even with gaining popularity many people still do not know this term. There are, however, many definitions for the word given by experts in the subject, from medical professionals, from literary professionals, and in reference material. Definitions do not tell the whole story about the word and to fully understand it one must look at all of the different possibilities there are for the pathography. There are many classification techniques for the pathography genre. There are simple categorizations such as by author, outcome, and media, as well as specific categorizations such as by disease, by religion, and by the author’s motive for writing. Even more complex are the combinations of simple and specific categorizations, such as combining author with religion or disease, outcome and religion, and media with motive.

How does one write a pathography? While one could go on and on about the subject in several lectures, there is no one way to write a pathography. Every person is different and would therefore have different thoughts, feelings, and experiences to write about. The different factors that are used to categorize pathographies are used to describe perspectives from which people can write. Also, the pathography does not necessarily have to be a written work, the medium used to express the thoughts, feelings, and experiences are just as varied as the subjects included.

What is the future of the pathography? The genre is still growing and evolving. Its future looks bright as many famous and non-famous people are writing about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences with illness. Medical schools are seeing this increase in pathographies as a tool to teach medical students how to empathize with their patients and to treat the person instead of the disease. With increased interest in the subject there are journals that are now looking at the efficacy of illness narratives and their impact on the medical community.