Talking Bodies: Sexual Abuse, Language, Illness and Dissociation in Camilla Gibb’s Mouthing the Words

  • Shadia Abdel-Rahman Téllez Universidad de Oviedo


Camilla Gibb’s Mouthing the Words (2002) is a coming-of-age story about bodily trauma and the attempts of the main character to escape corporeality. Written as a self-narration, the novel explores the protagonist’s (dis)embodied experience of multiple personality disorder and anorexia, establishing a causal relationship between sexual abuse and illness. On the one hand, illness becomes a sort of bodily language to break the silence imposed in early sexualisation and, on the other, a defence mechanism to overcome trauma by dissociating mind from body. This Cartesian approach to existence gives the protagonist only two options: to become fully disembodied, or to try to recover her agency by transforming herself into a fully embodied subject.Keywords: trauma; sexual abuse; anorexia; language; embodiment; multiple personality disorder

Author Biography

Shadia Abdel-Rahman Téllez, Universidad de Oviedo
Shadia Abdel-Rahman Téllez graduated in English Studies and was awarded a Master’s Degree in Gender and Diversity at the University of Oviedo with a final dissertation focused on narrativity and embodied subjectivity in two literary representations of child sexual abuse and trauma. Sheis currently a PhD student in the programme of Gender and Diversity also at the University of Oviedo and her research interests include medical humanities and phenomenological philosophy. More specifically, her thesis examines literary representations of illness and pain in contemporaryAnglophone literature by women.


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