Photo by Tony RinaldoPhoto by Tony Rinaldo
Helen Putnam Fellow
New York University
What's Wrong With Me? The Mysteries of Chronic Illness

Meghan O’Rourke, a poet and nonfiction writer, is the author of the poetry collections Once (W. W. Norton, 2011) and Halflife (W. W. Norton, 2007) and the memoir The Long Goodbye (Riverhead Books, 2011), which examines how mourning is experienced in America today. She teaches at Princeton University and at the New York University Creative Writing Program and writes for the New Yorker, the New York Times, Slate, and others.

At the Radcliffe Institute, O’Rourke is working on a nonfiction project called “What’s Wrong With Me? The Mysteries of Chronic Illness,” which explores the rise of chronic illnesses such as autoimmune disease in the United States. In this project, she examines the shadowy uncertainties confronted by sufferers of such illnesses. Autoimmunity and chronic fatigue are a lens through which to study not only structural topics such as our health care system, but also the social conditions that have conspired to bring these hard-to-pinpoint illnesses to the forefront today. Along the way, she investigates the social and historical construction of illness, the poorly understood relationship between mind and body, the limitations of medicine, and the difference between “disease” (the medical label one is given) and illness experience (one’s day-to-day life).

A graduate of Yale University, O’Rourke is the recipient of a 2014 Guggenheim Fellowship, the Poetry Prize in Honor of May Sarton, the Union League Civic and Arts Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, a Lannan Residency Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, and a Front Page Award for commentary, among other honors.

2014–2015 Radcliffe Institute Fellows

This information is accurate as of the fellowship year indicated for each fellow.
Photo by Tony Rinaldo