Edited by Franziska Gygax and Miriam A. Locher
[Studies in Narrative 20] 2015
► pp. 33–46
“Woundable, around the bounds”
Life (beyond) writing and terminal illness
Writing about death and inscribing it into their texts is a way of exploring a realm neither dying autobiographers nor their readers can know about. Since writing about death seems to fall out of the paradigm of representation, writing about it means writing about what cannot be known, and yet, in my selected illness narratives death is omnipresent. In my chapter I will focus on the close relationship between narrating one’s illness and one’s possible or even impending death and ask how the autobiographer’s use of language mirrors death that “falls outside the thinkable” (de Certeau, 1984, p. 191). Narrative as a concept that enables its author to construct some kind of meaning of disrupting and anxiety-inspiring experiences – often dominating in illness narratives – guides my analysis (cf. also our introduction). This crucial effect of such a narrative is pertinent to both writer and reader. Furthermore I also address issues related to affect studies and to the intricate relationship between the suffering self (autobiographer) and the other (reader). The illness narratives discussed are Audre Lorde’s A Burst of Light, Sandra Butler and Barbara Rosenblum’s Cancer in Two Voices, Gillian Rose’s Love’s Work, and Harold Brodkey’s This Wild Darkness.