Blogging breast cancer: language and subjectivity in women's online illness narratives
For centuries, women have written about their experiences with breast cancer, often recording their accounts in the form of diaries and letters to be shared with an audience of intimates, or perhaps no one at all. Although the practice of writing first-person encounters of breast cancer is not new, the recent development of the Weblog (or blog) introduces a new instance of the breast cancer narrative. Most obviously, the popularity of blogs makes a greater number of women's writings available to a wider audience. However, blogging technology does not simply increase the number of available narratives. Rather, blogs represent an altogether new kind of narrative. The typical structure and features of a blog enable multivocality, promote fluidity, and resist narrative closure. The blog, therefore, suggests a form of writing particularly suited to the female author, especially one negotiating the feelings of altered embodiment and selfhood that characterize many women's experience with breast cancer. This project, by considering the ways in which blogs are distinct from forms of narrative previously available to women with illness, represents a first step toward turning scholarly attention to these texts by examining their function, significance, and their implications for broader debates about women, writing, and subjectivity. The specific features of the blog enable the representation of a self through writing which is multiple, dispersed, and shifting those same qualities which echo feminist critiques of the masculine universal subject. Thus, this work argues that blogs represent a form of narrative particularly suited to both a feminine notion of subjectivity and the experience of illness itself.
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