This article argues that while, for many readers, it’s not surprising that women and an unspeakable “c” word might be linked in Philip Roth’s fiction, he also invokes a c-word that is not vulgar; it is cancer. This illness, which strikes characters such as Drenka Balich, Consuela Castillo, and Amy Bellette, has been considered too little in Roth’s fiction. Contrary to the frame of alleged misogyny within which Roth’s fiction is often situated, I argue that his characters with cancer, especially the vibrant women of Sabbath’s Theater (1995), The Dying Animal (2001), and Exit Ghost (2007), reveal an artistic understanding of women that is more ethical than objectifying, more humane than sexually predatory. By shifting our focus from one “c-word” to another—from “cunt,” so often the focus in reading Roth’s fiction, to “cancer”—we can see more about Roth’s approach to women and indeed, humanity, in general.


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pp. 105-123
Launched on MUSE
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