1st Edition

Phantom Limbs and Body Integrity Identity Disorder Literary and Psychoanalytic Reflections

By Monika Loewy Copyright 2020
    194 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    194 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Phantom Limbs and Body Integrity Identity Disorder discusses the conditions of Phantom Limb Syndrome and Body Integrity Identity Disorder together for the first time, exploring examples from literature, film, and psychoanalysis to re-ground theories of the body in material experience.

    The book outlines the ways in which PLS and BIID involve a feeling of rupture underlined by a desire for wholeness, using the metaphor of the mirror-box (a therapeutic device that alleviates phantom limb pain) to examine how fiction is fundamentally linked to our physical and psychical realities. Using diverse examples from theoretical and fictional works, including thinkers such as Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan, Maurice Blanchot, D.W. Winnicott, and Georges Perec, and films by Powell and Pressburger and Quentin Tarantino, each chapter offers a detailed exploration of the mind/body relationship and experiences of fragmentation, bodily ownership, and symbolic reconstitution. By tracing these concepts, the monograph demonstrates ways in which fiction can enable us to understand the psychosomatic conditions of PLS and BIID more thoroughly, while providing new ways of reading psychoanalysis, literary theory, and fictional works.

    The first book to analyse BIID in relation to PLS, Phantom Limbs and Body Integrity Identity Disorder will be essential reading for academics and literary readers interested in the body, psychoanalysis, English literature, literary theory, film, and disability.

    PART I. Why Psychoanalysis and Literature?  1. Introduction  2. "We didn’t ask for this pain"  3. Science, Literature, and Psychoanalysis  4. Negative Hallucination and "The Man from Burma"  PART II. Symbolic Exchanges and Reconstitutions 5. The Mirror-stage, Blanchot, and "Orpheus’s Gaze"  6. The Red Shoes  7. Breakdown: D.W. Winnicott  8. Death Proof  9. Almost Artificial Limbs: Perec’s W or The Memory of Childhood 10. A Psychoanalytic Voyage: Perec and Symbolic Reconstitution 11. Conclusion


    Monika Loewy, PhD, obtained her doctorate in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London. She teaches and writes on film, twentieth and twenty-first-century literature, and psychoanalysis. 

    "What is going on when a person endures the agony of a phantom limb, or longs to have a physically healthy limb amputated? In both these conditions there is ‘a dissonance between subjective and objective senses of self’. But with the mirror-box cure for phantom-limb sensations, we move from medicine to something in which illusion is activated, something more like psychoanalysis or literature. In a series of sparkling and searching analyses, Monika Loewy weaves through online chat-groups, films, theory and fiction, with especially brilliant readings of Lacan, Winnicott and Perec, to show how psychosomatic fissure can be transformed into ‘a way of coming to terms with what is not there". – Professor Naomi Segal, Birkbeck, University of London, Department of Cultures and Languages

    "The fascinating claim at the heart of this original and ambitious book is that fiction and illusion are woven into the texture of our physical and psychic reality. Loewy’s eye ranges over a broad and intriguing variety of discourses and texts, including patient memoirs, experimental psychology, neurology, novels and films, as well as psychoanalytic theory. She marshals this array of materials with skill and insight, resulting in a provocative and persuasive study of the psychic and cultural meanings of limb disorders." – Professor Josh Cohen, Goldsmiths University of London and British Psychoanalytical Society

    "The major strength of this book is its unique focus on the relationship between BIID and PLS. I am not aware of another book that examines these two phenomena comparatively, at least not in the way that involves an intertextual methodology. What makes the book distinctive apart from its topical focus, is its methodology. I agree with the author’s contention that too often BIID and PLS are viewed strictly through a medical/psychological lens and thus miss other avenues of cure and exploration. The topical focus on BIID and PLS makes this book a unique and essential resource. I believe it will feed increasing interest in reading psychoanalytic writing on the body alongside literature, film, and particular case studies. It will make an interesting and important contribution to the field, not only original in topical focus, but showcasing a unique intertextual method. I also support the mandate of bringing psychoanalysis to cultural studies, and literature/cultural studies to psychoanalysis which this book does beautifully." – Sheila L. Cavanagh, PhD, Sociology Professor at York University, Toronto, Canada


    "Monika Lowey has written a fascinating book on the links between fantasies about the body and its limbs, and the language with which to describe it. Seemingly about a very particular disorder, Body Integrity Identity Disorder, the volume invites us to question our perception of who we are, our human identities, and our anxieties. The book guides the reader through a maze of case studies, making haunting connections between pain, literary works and psychoanalytical interpretations. Unmissable.’ – Agnieszka Piotrowska, PhD, director of Married to the Eiffel Tower and author of The Nasty Woman and The Neo Femme Fatale in Contemporary Cinema