Recognition, relationality, and care in identification with self-harm in fiction

Recognition, relationality, and care in identification with self-harm in fiction

Ms Veronica HeneyZoom

The visibility of self-harm in fiction and media more broadly is frequently both feared and critiqued. This logic that “if you don’t see it, you won’t do it” (McWade, 2019) is grounded in concerns of over-identification, presenting self-harm as that which multiplies through failed reading and failed readers. In this paper interviews with people with experience of self-harm will be used to present a more nuanced account of representations of self-harm and of modes of identification. The paper will note the significance of the context of scarcity in which such representations exist; not only is self-harm often experienced as isolating but fictional depictions are rarely encountered, self-harm and the self-harming subject are invisible. Thus participants described identification not as solipsistic or inward-facing, nor as simplistic replication, but as a moment of new relationality, in which textual visibility made it possible to give an account of the self as a self-harming subject, and for that subject to be known or understood. The paper will explore which facets of a textual representation might make such an account possible or likely, and how identification or recognition might be understood both as an experience of care and as creating the possibility of future care.

University of Exeter, UK
Fri 14:30 - 16:00
Mental Health
Standard paper