Helene & Writing Abuse, Shame, and Death: A Poetics of Spirit within the Failing Body
Gregory, Tracy Jane
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Helene is a cross-genre text through the lens of a young female woman, Helene, that both ruminates on the grief caused by having a female body, specifically one that fails to meet the expectations of others, and pays homage to the possibility of life without a body. The title character, grappling with the death of her grandfather and its impact on her sense of self and body, processes her grief through various forms: letters written to her grandfather's spirit, fragmented prose and poetry, an episode of an imaginary television sitcom of Helene's life where well-known figures stand in for her family members, and magazine articles, advertisements, and self-guided exercise that execute Helene's desire to exist in the spiritual realm. Writing Abuse, Shame, and Death: A Poetics of Spirit within the Failing Body studies the creation of Helene as writing in spite of body through the practice of mediumship. It discusses the text as a response to the death of the author's own grandfather, a death that helped her realize the acts of repression in her life and her writing. Helene and Writing Abuse, Shame, and Death: A Poetics of Spirit within the Failing Body are thus a process, not product, of grieving that moves through the internal conflict the author has felt as a woman mourning both the loss of a loved one and the temporary loss of identity and agency as a result of abuse.