In Illness as Metaphor, Susan Sontag described the heyday of a “nihilistic and sentimental” nineteenth-century logic that found appeal in female suffering: “Sadness made one ‘interesting.’ It was a mark of refinement, of sensibility, to be sad. That is, to be powerless.”
In this presentation, Leslie Jamison will reflect on the process of trying to write about female pain – as performed posture and authentic experience – and the broader question of how to represent suffering without mythologising it. How do we describe a wound without glamorising it? Jamison will talk about the process of trying to recruit as much of the world as possible to join her in this grappling: the personal histories and dreams of friends, the bloody lyrics of her favourite singers, the shower scenes in her favourite movies. What does it mean to crowdsource the wound – or the question of what our wounds mean to us?
The presentation is part of a series of parallel talks and screenings, departing from some of the key concerns and methods that informed the work of Ellen Cantor.
Leslie Jamison is a writer based in New York. Her works include The Gin Closet (2010) and The Empathy Exams (2014). Originally from Los Angeles, she attended Harvard University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and undertook a Ph.D. in English Literature at Yale.