Catching Feelings: Affect, Life Writing and the Sociality of Women’s Illness
AuthorGreen, Chloe Rebecca
AffiliationSchool of Culture and Communication
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2022-11-25.
© 2020 Chloe Rebecca Green
In “On Being Ill,” Virginia Woolf declared that illness is “the great confessional”; however, she believed this confessional impulse to be isolating, limiting the sufferer to their individual plight. Instead, this thesis argues that the contemporary scene of women’s illnesses is undeniably social. By foregrounding elements of contagion in this thesis, I examine both the infectious capacity of illness, particularly mental, psychosomatic and contested illnesses, and the contagious quality of personal experience in order to consider how movement and sensation become gendered and pathologised. Works in the contemporary genre of infectious autobiography (or autobiographical illness narrative), which include life writing by Sylvia Plath, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Barbara Browning, Chris Kraus, and Leslie Jamison, configure illness as an affective environment, composed and sustained through relation. This project thus asks to what extent ill affects necessitate a shared experience, delineating what I call the sociality of illness, and in what ways this sharing encourages a post-critical and reparative structuring of the relationship between reader and text. For disorders which are primarily understood in terms of their emotional effects, these illnesses raise questions: if a person’s emotional state can be contagious, what, then, of the illness which informs and inflects that state? Does sharing feeling with someone experiencing such an illness approximate or even equate to the illness itself? And, perhaps most crucially, can like feeling transmute into pure feeling?
KeywordsAffect; Life writing; Autobiography; Women's writing; Contagion; Illness; Emotion
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