Freud's Jaw and Other Lost Objects: Fractured Subjectivity in the Face of Cancer

By Lana Lin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Object-Love in the Later Writings
of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

In her primer on living with advanced breast cancer, literary critic and queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick tells a perplexing joke that she has brooded over increasingly as she gets deeper into her own cancer experience. Someone asks a farmer about his pig’s wooden leg. The farmer goes into a long story with many examples of how the pig saved his son’s life, his daughter’s and her boyfriend’s, and his own with progressively extraordinary feats of ingenuity that far exceed anything a pig would be capable of. But despite reciting the details of the pig’s heroism, the farmer never explains why it has a wooden leg. Finally, the inquiring man beseeches the farmer to speak more directly, and the farmer says he thinks it should be obvious: You don’t eat a pig like that all at once.1 This odd tale can be seen as an analogy for living with cancer as a process of attrition in which corporeal wholeness is gradually eroded.

The allegory of the pig whose life and bodily integrity are subject to both danger and conservation encapsulates the major themes of this chapter. It supplies an open-ended instruction on survival, it ruminates upon death through gallows humor, it involves prosthetic part-objects, it grimly delights in the disassembling of the body into fragments, and unexpectedly

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