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Katherine May’s Wintering and the Care of the Self

Bolaki, Stella (2022) Katherine May’s Wintering and the Care of the Self. Life Writing, 20 (2). pp. 311-328. ISSN 1448-4528. E-ISSN 1751-2964. (doi:10.1080/14484528.2022.2064729) (KAR id:94081)


This essay focuses on Katherine May’s Wintering (2020), a self-help memoir that uses winter as a metaphor to explore an emotional state akin to depression. I situate the text in relation to autobiographical/critical work that reclaims rest and the restorative power of nature in contemporary life, as well as in relation to Michel Foucault’s ethic of the care of the self. Comparing Wintering more directly to Ann Cvetkovich’s experiment with memoir in Depression: A Public Feeling (2012), I examine how both writers’ focus on affective experience and everyday practices intervenes in contemporary understandings of self-care, a concept with a radical history but ambivalent character. Drawing inspiration from nature and its intricate system of survival is at the heart of the poetic/pragmatic resourcefulness of May’s memoir. I claim that rather than being a self-indulgent luxury, the process of wintering encourages a more generous stance to the world. However, I also address the limitations of May’s universalising natural analogies. I conclude with some theoretical reflections on ‘suspicious’ and ‘reparative’ readings of Wintering that show the importance of maintaining the internal tension of self-care as both a potential tool of ideological oppression and a vital practice of freedom carrying ethical and political possibilities.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1080/14484528.2022.2064729
Uncontrolled keywords: Katherine May; Wintering; self-care; rest; self-help memoir; nature
Subjects: P Language and Literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Funders: University of Kent (
Depositing User: Stella Bolaki
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2022 08:06 UTC
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2023 11:12 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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