In Search of Cancer in Literature

The word cancer comes from the Greek word karkinos meaning “crab”. It was coined by Hippocrates, who thought tumours resembled these creatures. Cancers were known of in ancient times, but little could be done to arrest the disease. Early medical techniques were drastic and, without anaesthesia, tortuous. In more recent literature, stories about cancer focus more on psychological and sociological dimensions of the disease. It serves as a metaphor for the death that awaits us all.

Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth

Borrowing a term from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, Joseph Campbell asserts there is a monomyth common to all cultures, the journey of an archetypal hero that happens to be found in all world mythologies. His idea of the hero’s journey has stirred controversy over the years with many suggesting it’s too male-centered or even rejecting it altogether, finding it to be so general it’s rendered meaningless.