Bodily Taboos

For this blog post, I chose Shelley Jackson’s My Body mostly because I wanted to see how similar or dissimilar it was from Patchwork Girl.  The page that begins the text is very similar to that of Patchwork Girl.  It shows a picture of a woman, assumed to be Jackson herself.

Jackson 2

The shape of the body does not show detail, but different parts of her body are framed, detailed with other body parts and skin texture.  Much like Patchwork Girl, the viewer is able to click on a framed body part and follow the link to a new page of text, the length of which varies from a few lines to more than an entire page.  Within the text are hyperlinks that take you to different body parts.  Even though there are several hyperlinks per page, it is possible to become stuck in a recursive loop of text you have read before, forcing you to relive several stories and experiences until you final click the hyperlink that takes you to a body part you haven’t read about yet.

Unlike Patchwork Girl, the text linked to different body parts presents as memoir, instead of a fictional story about where the Patchwork Girl’s various body parts come from.  However, like Patchwork Girl, some of the text attributed to the body parts is uncomfortable, highlighting a story about the specific body part that is deeply personal or contains taboo elements. Some of these more taboo elements present as events that seem too unnatural or crazy to even be real (See below for an example.).  Like Patchwork Girl, we are only able to see pieces of Jackson’s story in patches, forcing the reader to sew them together on their own, as they do not appear in order.

I think the point of this piece is to highlight the taboos of the body.  There are the sections of the text that are tame, highlighting the eyes and the ears and Jackson’s experiences with them, but there are also sections that can only be described as gross and weird.  In the section about her nose, Jackson talks about the way she dealt with a runny and stuffed-up nose as a child, admitting that she “was quiet and methodical about removing it and secreting it away.” Instead of using Kleenexes, she admits that she allowed the matter she removed from her nose to dry up, then used it to create sculptures she displayed on the top of her dresser.  Everyone has to deal with runny noses during their lifetime, but nobody talks about how they take care of the problem.  Jackson is open about what she did as a child in order to begin a dialogue about the functions of the body.  Even though everyone’s body works in the same way — save for a few differences between genders, like menstruation — it’s not common to discuss the more uncouth bodily functions, specifically those that deal with substances being exuded from the body.  Fittingly, the excerpts that deal with the expulsion of substances from — and the insertion of objects into — the body are some of the most uncomfortable to read.


About Ellie

Resolving to find a love of writing again.
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3 Responses to Bodily Taboos

  1. endorphinique says:

    I really like this idea of the body as a taboo, considering that this idea seems present throughout Jackson’s work. There’s the obvious connection to Patchwork Girl as a Frankenstein’s Monster creation, but even in Skin, she demonstrates a sort of comfort with body manipulation in this grander project of tattooing single words on others. I’m very interested in her work because of this, and the way she “dissects” herself in this text speaks a lot about her digital embodiment as far as memory and physicality goes.


  2. tangledheadphones1057 says:

    I like how Jackson uses hyperlinks to personalize her work even furthur to the reader. “My Body” allows the reader to explore the parts of the work he or she is interested in. Each reading is personalized to the reader, who will interpret it in his or her own way. Clicking on the hyperlink allows each reader to connect to the human body.


  3. 1ady1azarus says:

    Jackson’s work appeals to me too, just for the fact that she’s obviously incredibly concerned with the female body as a text, as the site of sexual, social, political, and historical discourse. Talking about those “taboo” aspects in regards to a woman’s body is a way to rebel against the social script that attempts to dictate them. This isn’t necessarily new, of course. I mean, Anne Sexton wrote “The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator” in the ’60s. But the realm of digital literature allows Jackson to visually construct a woman’s body through text. It takes it to a whole new level.

    Liked by 1 person

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