Voices of liminal bodies : Anne Cuneo and Lydia Flem's cancer narratives

Verdier, Caroline (2023) Voices of liminal bodies : Anne Cuneo and Lydia Flem's cancer narratives. Women in French Studies, 8. pp. 67-77. ISSN 1077-825X (In Press)

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This article explores the multiple impacts of breast cancer on patients as effectively conveyed by the narratives of Swiss and Belgian writers Anne Cuneo and Lydia Flem. Their respective pathographies, Une Cuillerée de bleu: chronique d’une ablation (1979) and La reine Alice (2011), are based on their own cancer experience and, each in their own style and genre, put to the fore not only the corporeal disruption and suffering the cancer patient goes through, but also the sense of displacement, marginality and state of liminality felt as part of the diagnosis and treatment. Supported by a body of studies focusing on experiences of cancer and on patients’ negotiation of life-threatening illnesses, and underpinned by the notions of margin and liminality, this article centres on the experiential testimonies of the narrators and their similarities in order to demonstrate how Cuneo and Flem’s illness accounts can be considered as good illustrations of the way cancer and its treatment disrupts one’s life as a whole, altering at once the patient’s body and his/her identity. Our analysis also reflects on the role of the medical institution in taking control of the patients bodies, but leaving the persons on the margin as part of the treatment. Finally, it considers the importance of writing as an integral part of the recentring and recovery process for both authors who seek come to terms with a new post-cancer identity.


Verdier, Caroline ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7375-5488;