'What the Book Told’: Illness, Witnessing, and Patient-Doctor Encounters in Martha Hall’s Artist’s Books

Bolaki, Stella (2009) 'What the Book Told’: Illness, Witnessing, and Patient-Doctor Encounters in Martha Hall’s Artist’s Books. Gender Forum, 26 (II). pp. 1-9. ISSN 1613-1878. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

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Abstract

The essay explores the specific insights artists’ books offer to contemporary feminist understandings of breast cancer, questions of representation and embodiment, discourses of ‘witnessing,’ and to doctor-patient relationships, using the work of American book artist Martha A. Hall as a case study. Hall’s artists’ books, created in response to her initial diagnosis of breast cancer in 1989 and the effects of later recurrences until her death in 2003, consist of poems, prose passages, ironic quotations by health practitioners, and images such as x-rays, bone scans, and pictures of prescription bottles. Artists’ books create a different kind of ‘reading experience’ compared to most ordinary books. While this is often described in terms of a powerful ‘aesthetic’ experience, in the essay I am more concerned with illustrating how artists’ books engage and complicate discourses of witnessing, which have recently become foregrounded in the fields of trauma, disability, and illness studies. I also discuss the potential the artist’s book holds as a medium for sharing experiences of critical illness and for effecting change in the ways medical professionals interact with their patients, thus commenting on both its personal and political value. The essay concludes with a series of reflections triggered by my own particular encounter with Hall’s work.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of English
Depositing User: Stella Bolaki
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2014 17:12 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2016 14:17 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/44294 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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