Men and emotion talk

Evidence from the experience of illness


  • Jonathan Charteris-Black University of West of England
  • Clive Seale Queen Mary University of London



gender, men, emotion, feeling, illness experience


Evidence is presented supporting the view that serious illness is often interpreted by men as an opportunity for emotional expressivity, contrasting with language and gender ideologies that stress men’s deficiencies in this realm. Comparative analysis of a large matched corpus of male and female interviews concerning the experience of a wide range of illnesses is reported. Illness experience prompts a process of biographical disruption for men resulting in a highly varied verbal repertoire. Compared with women discussing the same kind of experience, some men employ direct ‘on the record’ styles such as swearing, while others employ indirect ‘off the record’ distancing strategies, such as metaphor and generalisation that reify illness experience by externalising it as a problem. Some men express high levels of frustration, while others use a more self-conscious ‘women’s language’ of feelings that enables them to construct new identities. Such men associate this with the capacity for new and, paradoxically, more powerful performances of masculine identity.

Author Biographies

Jonathan Charteris-Black, University of West of England

Jonathan Charteris-Black is Professor of Linguistics, the University of the West of England. He is author of Corpus Approaches to Critical Metaphor Analysis (Palgrave-MacMillan, 2004), Politicians and Rhetoric: The Persuasive Power of Metaphor (Palgrave-MacMillan, 2005) and The Communication of Leadership: The Design of Leadership Style (Routledge, 2007). He is interested in to unifying theoretical approaches developed in corpus linguistics, critical discourse and cognitive semantics for applications within a broad social sciences perspective.

Clive Seale, Queen Mary University of London

Clive Seale is Professor of Medical Sociology at the Centre for Health Sciences, Queen Mary University of London. He is author of Constructing death: the sociology of dying and bereavement (Cambridge University Press, 1998); The quality of qualitative research (Sage, 1999) and Media and health (Sage, 2003).


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How to Cite

Charteris-Black, J., & Seale, C. (2013). Men and emotion talk: Evidence from the experience of illness. Gender and Language, 1(1).



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