Occult Anorexia: The Unseen Forces of Anorexia Life-Writing
Ms Emma SeaberZoom
Contemporary culture is very familiar with the stories of hope and optimism that make up the classic anorexia autobiography. But this is not a truly representative image of anorexia. It is an archetype, developed over decades of repeated elisions, reductions and simplifications in public discourse. We are far less au fait with the violent histories and tragic endings to be found in other examples of anorexia life-writing — writers who have died from their anorexia, or who have articulated experiences from which there was no sure and stable recovery, no resolution, no satisfying retrospective glance.
What if there is a heretofore unseen other world of anorexia? What if there is a surface layer of ‘canonical’ and ‘popular’ anorexia memoirs and autobiography, broadly formulaic in content, structure and narrative style, and below it, in its shadow, there is also what I have come to think of as an underworld of anorexia life-writing, an ‘occult anorexia’? This paper offers the concept of ‘occult anorexia’ to both describe and explain the anorexia we cannot or do not see — horrors we shut our eyes to, things secreted in the interstices of popular discourse, stories actively hidden in the shadows of overbearing cultural touchstones.