Cinematic Incorporation: Literature in My Life Without Me

Sarah Dillon


This essay considers the relationship between literature and film through a reading of Isabel Coixet's film My Life Without Me (2003). The first half of the essay explores how two recent theorisations of the term incorporation allow us to read, on the one hand, the film's relationship to Nanci Kincaid's short story 'Pretending the Bed is a Raft' (1997) in particular and to literature in general and, on the other, the narrative consequences of the protagonist Ann's decision to keep her terminal illness a secret. In the first instance, Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin's definition of incorporation in Remediation (2000) helps explain how the film does not adapt the short story upon which it is supposedly based, but in fact only repurposes it. Literary aspects of the film's mise-en-scène, plot and imagery, however, signal My Life Without Me's incorporation of literature. In the second instance, the essay explores how Jacques Derrida's theory of incorporation's role in mourning helps the viewer understand the film's plot development out of Ann's secret. In the second half of the paper, Leo Bersani's idea of impersonal intimacy is developed into a theory of literature. The conclusion posits that impersonal intimacy defines the literary in contrast to cinema's tendency to full disclosure.


incorporation; literature and film; Jacques Derrida; impersonal intimacy; My Life Without Me; Coixet

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