From Wandering Wombs to Female Troubles: Endometriosis Self-Help Literature and Memoir From the Intersections of Queer and Disability Studies




Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



From Wandering Wombs to Female Trouble: Endometriosis Self-Help Literature and Memoir from the Intersections of Queer and Disability Studies investigates how compulsory motherhood operates as a discursive and pedagogical agent in discourses about endometriosis, a common, chronic gynecological condition characterized by debilitating chronic pain, fatigue, and infertility, among other symptoms. Routinely called the “career woman’s disease,” endometriosis is a vector through which women experience firsthand the results of conflicting medical theories and cultural representations of the female body. While medical discourse, self-help texts, and memoirs often frame reproductive disease as an individual crisis, locating treatment in the discipline of female bodies and lifestyles in accordance with traditional roles of wife and mother, my project reframes discussions about the relationship of medical power knowledge to representations of women’s health by (1) examining women’s writing about endometriosis by those who do not fit the standard “endo patient” prototype, and (2) seeing endometriosis as a set of socially constructed practices. My work shows how cultural discourses about endometriosis prescribe ideals of privately managed, socially normative, disciplined female bodies. I ultimately argue that although discourses of chronic reproductive illnesses encourage women to embrace traditional gender roles under the guise of empowerment, contemporary women’s life writing about endometriosis has the potential to exceed this repression as a mode of activism, inquiry, and authorship.



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Committee Chair

Masse, Michelle



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