“The experience of illness in all of its complexity”: breast cancer, healthy-mindedness, and new momism movements at work in the illness narratives of Rosalind MacPhee and Kathlyn Conway
Picasso’s Woman: A Breast Cancer Story (1994) and Ordinary Life: A Memoir of Illness (1997) tell of the breast cancer experiences of Rosalind MacPhee and Kathlyn Conway, respectively. This thesis examines how three particular social movements—the breast cancer, healthy-mindedness, and “new momism” movements, all described in Chapter One—affect how MacPhee and Conway experience breast cancer and then write about it in the 1990s. Chapter Two examines the language of war that MacPhee and Conway adopt to describe illness and how such language leads them to examine the possibility proposed by the healthy-mindedness movement: that they are personally responsible for bringing a “determined killer” (Conway 125) into their lives. Chapter Three studies their active patient behaviours, as advocated by the breast cancer movement, as well as their more passive ones. I consider the relation between these active and passive behaviours in light of the severe nature of mastectomies and the presentation of post-surgical options. Chapter Four investigates how MacPhee and Conway struggle to maintain their roles as supermoms, busily attending to responsibilities at home and work, while simultaneously managing their recoveries. In each Chapter, the influence of the social movements named above becomes apparent as MacPhee and Conway attempt to move themselves and others out of the breast cancer experience and back into “a sense of normality” (MacPhee 106).
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeTeucher, Ulrich; Stephanson, Raymond; James-Cavan, Kathleen; Cooley, Ronald
Breast Cancer Culture