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Hungry for meaning: Discourses of the anorexic body.

Brian, Josephine (2006) Hungry for meaning: Discourses of the anorexic body. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom).

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Abstract

This thesis takes a critical analytic approach to contemporary discourses of anorexia. Unlike much feminist literature on eating disorders, its emphasis is metatheoretical: rather than taking the anorexic body itself as object of enquiry, the thesis focuses on the effects of theory about anorexia. It investigates the underlying structure of dominant discourses about anorexia and, using a feminist genealogical methodology, contextualises those discourses within broader feminist theoretical debates and within historical trends in thinking 'feminine disorders'. In particular, the thesis seeks to account for the absence in contemporary theory of an engagement with how anorexia feels. It suggests that feminist cultural theorists' arguments about anorexia as a metaphor for the condition of Western women, and feminist corporeal theorists' readings of anorexia as a synecdoche for gender oppression, privilege the visual body at the expense of the affective and sentient aspects of embodiment. Moreover, the frequent feminist argument that anorexia demonstrates the harm done by thin-ideal media images indicates the extent to which much existing feminist theory reproduces, rather than surpasses, a notion of anorexics as pathological and suggestible. Building on this analysis of discursive effects, the thesis suggests some new ways of thinking existing knowledges about anorexia. It reconceptualises anorexia as a form of melancholia engendered by specific, often traumatic, forms of touch (in both physical and affective senses). Through a reflexive affective dialogic reading practice, it engages with a number of anorexic autobiographies, exploring the effects and limitations for anorexic subjects of the imperative to represent one's life truthfully, and the narrative strategies through which anorexic autobiographers have circumvented truth-judgements. By foregrounding the significance of touch to both anorexic body and narrative, the thesis reframes anorexia in intersubjective terms and recentralises family dynamics as key to many anorexics' conceptions of self.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Women's Studies
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/2137

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