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Spring 2021 Advisory

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Narratives of Health & Identity: Danielle Spencer with Andrew Solomon

Please join Danielle Spencer in conversation with Andrew Solomon, discussing Spencer’s new book, Metagnosis: Revelatory Narratives of Health and Identity (Oxford University Press, 2020.)

The book identifies and names the phenomenon of metagnosis: the experience of learning in adulthood of a longstanding condition. It can occur when the condition has remained undetected (e.g. colorblindness) and/or when the diagnostic categories themselves have shifted (e.g. ADHD). More broadly, it can occur with unexpected revelations bearing upon selfhood, such as surprising genetic test results. Though this phenomenon has received relatively scant attention, learning of an unknown condition is often a significant and bewildering revelation, one that subverts narrative expectations and customary categories. Beginning with Spencer's own experience, the book explores the issues raised by metagnosis and discusses its own narrative arc in light of a range of metagnostic experiences—from Blade Runner to real-world mid-life diagnoses. Spencer proposes that better understanding metagnosis will not simply aid those directly affected, but will serve as a bellwether for how we will all navigate advancing biomedical and genomic knowledge, and how we may fruitfully interrogate the very notion of identity. For more information, please visit

Metagnosis is now available for pre-order at Amazon and Indiebound. Also available from Oxford University Press—Save 30% using code AMPROMD9.

Met•ag•no•sis, n. [/ˌmɛtəˈnəʊsɪs/]. Etymology: from μετα-across, changed, different, after + γιγνώσκειν to learn to know, perceive.
1. The revelation of a longstanding undetected condition effecting a change in the terms of knowledge.
a. Medicine. Diagnosis of a previously unobserved pathology, such as becoming aware that one is colorblind. May also occur when the diagnostic classification has shifted, as with the emergent and changeable category of autism spectrum disorders.
b. Identity etc. Revelation of knowledge bearing upon selfhood, such as genetic testing indicating genealogy differing from one’s prior awareness.

Metagnosis: Revelatory Narratives of Health and Identity

For questions, please contact Michael Gately, mg3898 [[at]] columbia [[dot]] edu.

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