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How to Have a Body

Blackwell, Hunter Tianna (2022) How to Have a Body. Masters thesis, Northern Arizona University.

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This current works to articulate the frustrations experienced by those who use the current American healthcare system. Inside of this work, a combination of nonfiction and poems are used to help portray how of chronic illness and gender impact how people have access to healthcare. From being dismissed to dealing with the stress of finances for doctors, “How to Have a Body” aims to strike urgency in the reader with just a few personal stories and narratives. I arranged this thesis in four parts. The first three sections focus on some of struggles within the medical system—women’s health, chronic illness, mental health, and gender identity. The fourth section moves to a conclusion written to allow the reader to understand what I have to give is just a slice of what’s happening in our worlds. This fourth section harkens for those stories that exists outside of the pages of this work. As easy as it is to say that frustration and anger fueled the creation of this work, I’d be remiss to not mention the power of connection. It is easy to suffer in silence. However, so many people were taking the strides to break stigmas simply by sharing their own stories. Humanity does not exist in a vacuum. Neither do stories. There is power in vulnerability. I worked closely with constellation imagery, Greek mythology, anatomy, and mathematical concepts to interact with the medicinal and sterile side of receiving care under a nurse’s, or doctor’s hands. Medical diagnosis and procedures feel rigid and inaccessible as visual. By integrating in the mythology and ethos of spirituality inside of the poems, I set out to break down the world of medicine into more human concepts. I am inspired conceptually by poet Arthur Sze’s work and how he wrote led to the use of long form poems with no visual line breaks to mimic the way a prescription is written. I also wrote poems after the current trends of what doctors recommend doing in order to help mitigate various symptoms of the correlated illness out of the inspiration for Sze’s work. Essayist Sarah Ramey, from her book, The Lady’s Handbook to Her Mysterious Illness and poet Warsan Shire’s work, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, inspired the use of second person. My efforts to use ‘you’ are to help continue invite the reader in. Rather than it being an attempt to universalize the events, I want to make sure that the reader understands that even if this hasn’t happened to the reader directly, it could be. Or someone they know. I also used second person in the poems is to address the person the section is about as well. I want to break down the barrier between me and them as much as I can while also still respecting the job that I am doing. I am only a vessel for a small part and so the use of the ‘you’ address allows me to make sure that I also point my reader back to who this is about. The work acts as a beacon for the real lives that are affected by the complexities of the healthcare system. My time in the critical theory classes at Northern Arizona University shed light on my practice of writing specifically as it relates to the audience. As a queer Black writer, I am constantly thinking about whose hands will my work fall. The importance of a reader lends itself critically into the writing and aesthetic styles. The challenge in writing this body of work is trying to balance out a reader who has previous experience with the system and the reader who had does not. Those two types of people require different words and tone. I worked to address the skeptical reader while also creating the space for recognition with readers who have been in similar positions. This is a sign that they are not alone. This is a warning for those who have yet to be in these positions.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Publisher’s Statement: © Copyright is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the Cline Library, Northern Arizona University. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
Keywords: Chronic Illness; Gender; Mental Health; Race; Wellness; Women's Health; Poetry; Essays
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
NAU Depositing Author Academic Status: Student
Department/Unit: Graduate College > Theses and Dissertations
College of Arts and Letters > English
Date Deposited: 14 Jul 2022 17:26
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2022 17:26
URI: https://openknowledge.nau.edu/id/eprint/5849

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