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From sense to meaning: Narrative Function Coding System for the experience of illness

Maria Francesca Freda (Department of Humanities, University of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy)
Daniela Lemmo (Department of Humanities, University of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy)
Ersilia Auriemma (Department of Humanities, University of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy)
Raffaele De Luca Picione (Giustino Fortunato Telematic University, Benevento, Italy)
Maria Luisa Martino (Department of Humanities, University of Naples Federico II, Naples, Italy)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 13 September 2022

Issue publication date: 4 January 2023

25

Abstract

Purpose

Consistent with current literature, which highlights the role of narration as a key tool for exploring the processes by which people construct the meaning of their critical experiences the authors propose a theoretical and methodological model to analyse the narratives of illness and identify any innovative aspects. The generative model of mind presented refers to a semiotic, narrative and socio-constructivist perspective according to which narration constitutes one of the possible processes by which the affective and pre-verbal sense of experience is transformed into a meaning that can be symbolized and shared.

Design/methodology/approach

The onset of an illness represents a critical event which interrupts a person's life narrative, shattering his/her biographical continuity and undermining any assumptions of him/herself and the world. In particular, the model proposes a method of analysis, currently absent in literature, of the narrative interview Narrative Function Coding System (NFC) in order to grasp the ways by which four main narrative functions, namely psychic functions, are classified: the search for meaning, the expression of emotions, the temporal organization and the orientation to action.

Findings

NFC appears to be able to capture the complexity of the narrative process of construction of illness' sense-meaning making process, identifying both representative modalities of good functioning, which express a gradual process of connection with the variability of the experience, and modalities that express moments of disorganization and rigidity, which can persist throughout the time of treatment. The NFC represents not only a method for analysing illness narratives but also a method for tracking and monitoring the process of clinical intervention and change.

Originality/value

The sense-meaning making process perspective within the narrative socio-constructivist and semiotic framework of analysis proposed by NFC is currently absent in the literature. NFC can be a device for analysing the narrative process of sense-meaning making both for its use for clinical and preventive purposes. In addition we believe that this method, which focuses on the “form” and “way” of narratively constructing the subjective experience, rather than on the specific thematic content, can be used with all types of illness narratives, in particular the longitudinal one to explore the changes in sense-meaning making process.

Keywords

Citation

Freda, M.F., Lemmo, D., Auriemma, E., De Luca Picione, R. and Martino, M.L. (2023), "From sense to meaning: Narrative Function Coding System for the experience of illness", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 41-61. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRJ-06-2022-0081

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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