Breast augmentation and artificial insemination: Monstrous medicine and the female body in recent fiction
Australasian Journal of Popular Culture
School of Arts and Humanities
Recent fiction that depicts medical intervention upon the female body as monstrous reveals societal anxiety around aesthetic and reproductive medicine. As biotech-nology rapidly advances, the female body continues to be a site on which improve-ments, efficiencies and controls are imposed. While Kristeva’s abject and Creed’s ‘monstrous-feminine’ explain the capacity of the female body to imbue horror, this literary analysis explores how the experience of the medicalized female body can convey anxiety relating to escalating aesthetic and reproductive demands. Works of fiction by Kawakami, Mazza, Hortle, Booth, Giddings, Gildfind and Taylor are considered in terms of medicine and the female body, with the narratives revealing common themes of monstrosity. Bakhtin’s grotesque and Kristeva’s abject informs the analysis, as does Foucault’s concept of the ‘medical gaze’. Bartky’s ‘fashion-beauty complex’ frames the investigation into depictions of cosmetic surgery, while the impact of capitalism is considered in relation to reproductive technologies and medical experimentation. The power structures that medicine operates within are considered and the article argues that the representation of medicine as monstrous in relation to the female body expresses collective unease about the increasingly unstable boundaries of the human body itself.