Covid Illness Narratives and Viral Grief

Kristiana Willsey (University of Southern California)

Throughout the uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic, as new variants emerged and scientific studies lagged behind public anxiety, the most accessible and persuasive source of information has been personal experience narratives, shared and re-shared on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. This paper examines how an emerging genre of covid illness narratives has been shaped by the consumption and anticipation of public audiences on social media. Working from Judith Butler’s notion of “grievable” deaths, I analyze the rhetorical shift away from framing the pandemic as a war, and how this impacts the visibility/tellability of stories of covid symptoms, suffering, and loss.

Part of 09-07 Vernacular Responses to COVID, Saturday, October 15, 2:30 pm–4:30 pm