Graduate Work-in-Progress - Living and Telling: Managing the Rhetorical Body in Harriet Martineau’s Life in the Sick-Room

February 17, 2022 - 4:30 PM

Clark Hall Room 206, 11130 Bellflower Road

Illness narratives demand that an author constructs both a version of themselves and a version of their ill body as they present their story to the reader.  Constructing the self in a text is work enough, but to distance oneself from one’s physical body in order to create a version of it for a narrative is a complex task that demands much of the writer. In her talk, Hayley Verdi, a PhD candidate in the Department of English, will examine the text Life in the Sick-Room by the nineteenth century writer and theorist Harriet Martineau. Part memoir, part guidebook, part treatise, Martineau’s Life in the Sick-Room creates a type of illness narrative that promotes a vision of the body as rhetorical. This talk will consider how Martineau uses her lifelong struggle with chronic and often untreatable illness to create a narrative capable of instructing and guiding both the healthy and the ill reader. This process often occurs in Martineau’s evasion of specific descriptors of her illness primarily in the interest of deploying the experiences of her physical body in service to her rhetorical goals for her narrative. Managed and distanced, the ill body of the author is marshalled as another writerly device utilized to serve Martineau’s broader vision for how she and her readers might live alongside physical suffering and illness.

This lecture will be live-streamed as well.  

If attending in-person, registration is requested.  Register HERE.


Increasing COVID-19 cases within Northeast Ohio have prompted Case Western Reserve to resume its requirement that masks be worn indoors. In addition, only those who are fully vaccinated (two weeks past their final dose) should attend any campus event. Leaders continue to monitor pandemic developments and may need to adjust health protocols further as circumstances warrant. In-person is subject to change based on COVID-19 guidelines.