October 28, 2020

“I would wake up choking, unable to breath”: Breathing and Breathlessness in Louise DeSalvo’s ‘Breathless: An Asthma Journal’

Giuseppe Capalbo

This paper focuses on the literary representation of asthma in Louise DeSalvo’s Breathless: An Asthma Journal (1997). Taking the cue from her personal and family history, DeSalvo describes asthma as a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traces its ‘literary history’: from Marcel Proust’s À la Recherche du Temps Perdu to Susan Sontag’s The Volcano Lover, passing through Pat Barker’s The Regeneration Trilogy and Salman Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh. In Breathless, and then in Writing as a Way of Healing (1999), DeSalvo goes further and even argues that one can write ‘through’ (and not only ‘despite’) illness in order to master a trauma, which she has done in her so-called ‘wounded body narratives’. By intertwining Trauma Studies and the Medical Humanities, this paper aims at analysing DeSalvo’s asthmatic renderings, while making a comparison with the discussions around breath and breathing in the time of Coronavirus.

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Giuseppe Capalbo C

About Giuseppe Capalbo

Giuseppe Capalbo is a Ph.D. student in Literatures in English at the University of Verona, Italy. In 2018, as an Erasmus student, he conducted research on corporeality in contemporary Anglophone fiction at the Bodleian Library (University of Oxford, UK). In 2019, he earned a Master’s degree – cum laude – in Modern Languages and Literatures at the University of Calabria, Italy. In September 2019, he attended – as both speaker and chair – the international conference on Gender Studies Gender (Non)Conformity (University of Oxford, UK). In 2020, he attended the national conference Genere e R-esistenze in Movimento: Soggettività, Azioni, Prospettive (University of Trento, Italy). His areas of interest include Body, Disability, Gender, Queer, and Trauma Studies. His latest essay is titled Queering the Migrant Body: Bodily Paradigms in Hanif Kureishi and Dean Atta (in the forthcoming book Migrations: Interdisciplinary Routes, Mimesis).