In The Atlantic, essayist Leslie Jamison reflects on the words of Virginia Woolf that shaped her view of bodies in literature. Jamison recalls struggling to represent the physical aftermath of surgery, fearing that “writing about bodily experience [is] somehow… the ultimate solipsism,” and ultimately finding solace in Woolf’s essay “On Being Ill.” Jamison connects Woolf’s essay, Elaine Scarry’s theory on pain and speech, and the works of Whitman and Faulkner to memories of her own discomfort in waiting rooms and creative writing classes. Ultimately, she concludes that “the surface of the body isn’t poverty; it isn’t lack,” and moreover, it can be a site of deep connection between authors and readers.
Read Jamison’s piece in full here.
Learn more about Jamison’s volume of nonfiction essays on bodies and others, The Empathy Exams, here.
Image by Doug McLean for The Atlantic.