restricted access Disembodiment and Identity in Literary Depictions of Epilepsy Surgery

This article explores the often perplexing experience of being an epilepsy surgery candidate, as portrayed in four book-length accounts: Laura Doermer’s Moritz mein Sohn (Moritz my son, 1990), David B.’s L’ascension du haut mal (The ascent of the high evil, 1996; published in English as Epileptic, 2003), Ray Robinson’s Electricity (2006), and Alberto Capitta’s Il giardino non esiste (The garden doesn’t exist, 2009). Building upon critical disability studies and the work of French poststructuralists Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, I analyze issues of embodiment, identity and narrative (re)construction in the postsurgical alleviation of chronic illness. I argue that these texts highlight the inevitable disruption of self that brain surgery entails and ultimately resist biomedical normativization. They also call for a narratological reconsideration of current illness narrative typologies, among which Arthur Frank’s “chaos narrative” emerges as the best suited to accommodate the chronic fragmentation of consciousness and voice in epilepsy.