"The Absence Doubled?" Photo-Poetic Narratives of Prophylactic Mastectomy
Abstract

Abstract:

This essay considers Clare Best's poetic sequence Self-portrait without Breasts (2011) and her collaboration with photographer Laura Stevens, which explore preventive surgery and questions of genetics/hereditary breast cancer. In an era when risk and cosmetic reconstruction guide treatment and the development of new breast cancer subjects, Best reclaims the "flat simple scarred chest with no extras." I situate her poems in the context of statistics and the neoliberal postfeminist subject as well as in a poetic tradition about the post-mastectomy body as landscape. Reading the poetic sequence alongside photographs by Best and Stevens, I show how the liminal site of the scar and the flat body can be approached as generative spaces. In its dialogue with earlier representations of the amputated breast, this photo-poetic narrative contributes to the education of health professionals and demonstrates the importance of expanding discourses about women's health and feminist politics in the twenty-first century.