His hand closed up over the stretch of five years, and stayed like that till he passed. First the pinkie, as if winched towards the palm by an invisible string, and then the ring finger went, till his hand was frozen stiff like a claw. It was like it had slowly snapped shut, sixty years late for the butterflies we’d chased in Parson’s field. It was no worry to him, he chuckled, his pipe still fit between his fingers.
what for is there beauty
what for is there pain
what for is there beauty
if not for Solely me
for anything with beauty
is strictly what I see
‘This is my best exorcist impression,’ I tell you with a grimacing grin.
I tell you it’s a horror movie to make you laugh. So that you can laugh at the girl controlled by demons. As her head turns full circle on her neck. As her smile screams with silent blasphemy. Because if you don’t laugh, you turn away. You’ll never follow Karras through the window. You’ll turn and walk downstairs, sit with Chris and hope it goes away.
She is struggling with the concept of her body as a sensual object. She lifts the covers, brings her feet to meet the floor and winces as she stands. Legs laced with his now buckle as she walks, and shockwaves sparked by his touch are replaced by short-circuiting pain in her nerves.
Soft lips, coarse hair, hot skin, cool sweat, forget the pain, leave that til morning.
She makes it to the door; tries not to wake him so he won’t see her transformation. From time to time she indulges in the mythology of her beauty; an existence where physicality means something other than her suffering.
She pours the coffee that will focus her, swallows tablets that will soothe, takes a shower and embraces the heat that reaches deep into her bones. She follows the steps that will make her feel human and, symptom by symptom, she rebuilds the myth.
@lucygoodwill at twitter
The first publication of the Translating Chronic Pain project is now available.
Sara Wasson, ‘Before Narrative: Episodic Reading and Representations of Chronic Pain’, Medical Humanities 43 (5 January 2018): 1-7.
This article suggests that some illness experience may require a reading practice less concerned with narrative coherence or self-authorship, and more interested in the value of textual fragments, episodes and moments considered outside a narrative framework. Chronic pain can pose multiple challenges to the narrative orientations celebrated in both ‘survivorship’ discourse and classic medical humanities scholarship. In its recalcitrance to cure, its often mysterious aetiology and its complex blend of somatic, interpersonal and affective elements, representations of chronic pain can require a richer vocabulary of temporality. I draw on contemporary affect theory to augment the available critical vocabulary for the textual representation of protagonists’ temporal orientation within illness experience, identifying a language for the emergent present that resists a narrative form. Beyond identifying narrative ‘incoherence’, affect discourse gives a way to recognise the strained, equivocal labour of incoherence, of inhabiting a cryptic present moment. Affect theory’s attention to the emergent present may give a way to read incoherent ‘chaos’ outside from a narrative framework, not only as a dark, formless stage in a personal story. To expand our vocabulary for this position, I offer a term for a particular affective experience of the present amid repeated marginalisation: the temporality of thwarted connection. I illustrate how these concepts can enable an alternative reading stance by offering a brief analysis of Lous Heshusius’s hybrid autobiography and academic study, Chronic Pain from the Inside Out.
As part of the AHRC-funded project Translating Chronic Pain, we are running a free creative writing workshop in Manchester on Saturday 24 February.
I am also delighted to invite submissions of short-form creative writing around the experience of chronic pain, i.e. short works (5-150 words) of prose or poetry, optionally alongside artwork , or comic/sequential art. Please see the call for creative work. We welcome submissions.
We are delighted to be launching this network at the end of July 2017.
The first event is going to be a Creative Summit on Saturday 21 October at Lancaster University. This event will bring together people living with chronic pain, representatives of pain charities, medical practitioners, creative writers, and literary scholars. Together, we will explore how short, episodic writing may be of use to a diverse range of constituencies: people living with pain, carers, healthcare practitioners and others.
Our remarkable speakers will include the creative writers Jenn Ashworth (Lancaster) and Laura Joyce (UEA); graphic novelist and physician Ian Williams; photographer and academic Deborah Padfield (Slade), and Anthony Jones, Professor of Neuro-Rheumatology (Manchester), among others.
A few places are still available. If you would be interested in attending, please contact Sara Wasson through the contact form below and we will send you more information!