Dying Virtues: Medical Doctors’ Epideictic Rhetoric of How to Die

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Karen Kopelson


This essay takes the recent popularity of medical doctors’ narrative writings about the dying process as its cultural exigence, analyzing these alongside an earlier wave of such writings as epideictic rhetorics that function to reshape cultural values surrounding the “good death” by reconstituting our notions of virtuous dying conduct. Although the texts analyzed have many admirable and comforting qualities, encouraging us to face death with realism and assuring us that there are aspects of the way we die which are within our control, the virtues and modes of conduct they promote and exalt around a controlled death are available only to the privileged subject.

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