University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

‘The Heart Fails Without Warning’: Precarious Bodies in Hilary Mantel’s Short Fiction

Arnold, Lucy ORCID: (2018) ‘The Heart Fails Without Warning’: Precarious Bodies in Hilary Mantel’s Short Fiction. Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings, 18 (1). pp. 78-99. ISSN 1474-4600

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In her essay ‘On Being Ill’, Virginia Woolf decries literature’s effacement of the corporeal, its understanding of the human body as ‘a sheet of plain glass through which the soul looks straight and clear, and, save for one or two passions such as desire and greed, is null, negligible and non-existent.’Such a criticism could not be levelled at Hilary Mantel’s second collection of short fiction, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher. By turns anorexic, angelic, vampiric, disabled, disfigured, medicalised, migrainous, and monstrous, the bodies we find in these stories are unpredictable, and secretive, broken or uncomfortable, prone to becoming transparent, losing their boundaries or disappearing entirely. Through close readings of two stories from the collection, ‘Comma’and ‘The Heart Fails Without Warning’, I will demonstrate how Mantel depicts her characters’ bodies as spaces where metaphor and materiality interact, as essentially biocultural. This biocultural quality, I will argue, is ultimately the source of their profound precarity, making these bodies available for degredation and negation by a wealth of social and cultural forces.The various modes of embodiment available to Mantel’s characters foreground a series of interacting class-based and gendered understandings of certain bodies which act to nullify, over-simplify or oppress those who live in them by rendering them non-human.

Item Type: Article
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Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: bodies, illness, Hilary Mantel, biopolitics, anorexia, disability, 'Comma', 'The Heart Fails Without Warning'
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: College of Arts, Humanities and Education > School of Humanities
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Depositing User: Lucy Arnold
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2019 08:13
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2020 01:00

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