Ghosts and shame in Abby Norman and Hilary Mantel’s endometriosis memoirs

Ghosts and shame in Abby Norman and Hilary Mantel’s endometriosis memoirs

Mrs Neko MellorZoom

This paper explores representations of endometriosis and its invalidation in the memoirs of Hilary Mantel (Giving Up the Ghost: A Memoir, 2003) and Abby Norman (Ask Me About My Uterus: A Quest to Make Doctors Believe in Women’s Pain, 2018). It examines the psychologisation and psychiatrisation which both authors encounter in response to their pain, focussing on the ghost metaphors both authors employ to dramatise the self-effacing effects of repeated delegitimisation and shaming. I explore endometriosis’ communicative difficulties as an invisible chronic pain whose expression is compounded by the stigma of speaking about menstruation, suggesting that psychologising and psychiatrising responses can be at least as devastating as the pain symptoms themselves, systematically dehumanising women with endometriosis, effacing their agency, and endangering their wellbeing. The paper foregrounds my use of a crip-materialist methodology to attend to the narratives, deliberately drawing attention to my experiences of endometriosis-like pains as well as the affective responses accompanying my reading, including discomfort, disgust, guilt, and embarrassment. Throughout, I consider the value of these visceral and affective responses as a basis for engagement, asking if disgust can be a generative affect for an attentive, or even kind, close reading of pain memoirs.

University of Leeds, UK
Thu 14:30 - 16:00
Narrative, Shame and Stigma
Standard paper