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

Shadia Abdel-Rahman Téllez


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

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