Shattered Expectations: The Construction of Narrative Meaning in Shared Reading Groups for Informal Caregivers
Although most of us will become informal caregivers at some point in our lives, we do not typically imagine ourselves in that position when we envision our future. The experience of becoming an informal caregiver commonly violates individuals’ expectations of what life ought to be like, both for themselves and the person they care for. In addition to experiencing disillusionment, many informal caregivers are exhausted from simultaneously providing care for their loved one and dealing with difficult life situations arising from the illness. This compounded burden often makes it impossible for caregivers to live up to their own and others’ expectations of them as carers.
The aforementioned expectancy or schema violations are prominent themes in contemporary Scandinavian literature about caregiving. In my PhD dissertation I will examine their meaning, aesthetic form, narratological function and the affect they arouse using a combination of schema theory, shattered assumptions theory and narratology. I also plan to explore the ways in which schema disruptions in Scandinavian literature about caregiving challenge and subvert hegemonic narratives around informal caregiving in the Nordic countries. These investigations will lay the groundwork for my study of the shared reading group for informal caregivers, where we will be reading schema disrupting caregiving literature aloud to each other. The goal is to gain insight into how the shared reading sessions affect the participants’ life narratives – especially their imagined future – and their narrative identity as a caregiver. In this way, I aim to shed light on the potential therapeutic effect of shared reading on a group of informal caregivers, who meet weekly to read and discuss contemporary schema disrupting caregiving fiction.