Virtual Cancer: BRCA and Posthuman Narratives of Deleterious Mutation

Diane Price Herndl, University of South Florida
Vol. 32, No. 2/Vol. 33, No. 1 (Fall 2013/Spring 2014), 25-45

Texts focused on testing positive for the BRCA (breast cancer) genetic mutations challenge our understandings of what it means to be well or ill, as well as revise our theories of the posthuman body. Jessica Queller’s Pretty is What Changes, Masha Gessen’s Blood Matters, and Joanna Rudnick’s In the Family seem to be new narratives about the impact of new technologies on bodies, but they are shaped by old discourses of heterosexuality, able-bodiedness, and the requirements of biocitizenship. Insights from feminist disability studies and feminist materialist theory allow us to see these narratives as focused on myths of control and stability. BRCA narratives help to redefine the posthuman body as a function of the interaction of multiple forces, including the nonhuman, the biological, and the stories that we tell. We must confront the complexities more directly as well as learn to tell ethical stories about them.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]