Illness As Fantasy

Rachel Fraser at The Point:

Metaphors of illness come in two varieties. We may give an illness a name that is not its own—“cancer is an invasion.” Or we may use the names of illnesses to talk about something else—“Stalinism is a cancer.” In the first case, Sontag says, “the disease itself becomes a metaphor”; in the second, the disease’s “horror is imposed on other things.” Sontag takes both to distort the patient’s experience of illness by overlaying it with meanings it does not deserve. But the two deserve separate treatments. “Stalinism is a cancer” exploits illness; it uses sickness to cast light on something else. It presupposes that cancer is more straightforward, more readily comprehensible than Stalinism—otherwise, why try to understand the latter in terms of the former? It obscures cancer precisely by presenting it as readily comprehensible. “Cancer is an invasion” is something else entirely, something far more likely to be used by someone seeking to make sense of their own sickness. Audre Lorde reaches for the image repeatedly in her memoir. “I am not only a casualty,” she writes in The Cancer Journals. “I have been to war, and still am. … I refuse to be reduced in my own eyes … from warrior to mere victim.”

more here.