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“Living and Telling: Managing the Rhetorical Body in Harriet Martineau’s Life in the Sick-Room

Illness narratives demand that an author constructs both a version of themselves and a version of their ill body as they present their story to the reader. Constructing the self in a text is work enough, but to distance oneself from one’s physical body in order to create a version of it for a narrative is a complex task that demands much of the writer.

The Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities will host a talk on this topic with Hayley Verdi, a PhD candidate in the Department of English. Verdi will present “Living and Telling: Managing the Rhetorical Body in Harriet Martineau’s Life in the Sick-Room” Thursday, Feb. 17, at 4:30 p.m. in Clark Hall, Room 206. A livestream of the lecture also will be available. 

Part memoir, part guidebook, part treatise, Martineau’s Life in the Sick-Room creates a type of illness narrative that promotes a vision of the body as rhetorical. 

This talk will consider how Martineau uses her lifelong struggle with chronic and often untreatable illness to create a narrative capable of instructing and guiding both the healthy and the ill reader. This process often occurs in Martineau’s evasion of specific descriptors of her illness primarily in the interest of deploying the experiences of her physical body in service to her rhetorical goals for her narrative. Managed and distanced, the ill body of the author is marshaled as another writerly device used to serve Martineau’s broader vision for how she and her readers might live alongside physical suffering and illness.

Register if you plan to attend the lecture in-person.

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