Body Integrity Identity Disorder and the Phantom Limb: Reflections on the Bodily Text

Loewy, Monika. 2017. Body Integrity Identity Disorder and the Phantom Limb: Reflections on the Bodily Text. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Body Integrity Identity Disorder and the Phantom Limb: Reflections on the Bodily Text)
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Abstract or Description

Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID) describes a condition in which a person desires to self-amputate in order to feel whole, and the phantom limb syndrome (PLS) occurs when an individual feels (typically painful) sensations in a non-existent limb. These conditions have been predominantly researched through biomedical models that struggle to find comprehensive reasons or cures, while a psychological model is lacking. Thus, these conditions insist that we debate them from a more nuanced view, which I approach through literature, cultural works, and psychoanalysis. In order to do this, we must attend to what is central to both phenomena: a feeling of rupture that contrasts a desire for wholeness.

This theme will be elaborated through a discussion of the mirror-box, which is a therapeutic device that alleviates phantom limb pain by superimposing a mirror image of the existent limb onto the absent one, to create an illusion of bodily unity. I use this example to illuminate how texts and psychoanalysis involve reflections of self that can lead to a symbolic reconstitution. What this dialogue illuminates is how theoretical and psychical notions are intertwined with physical experience.

I begin by surveying BIID and PLS, which is followed by two case studies that convey personal experiences of living with the syndromes. Chapter Two examines how BIID and PLS bring out an affinity between psychoanalysis and literature. The third chapter uses examples to fortify these links by tracing the theme of the double. The question of recuperation is raised in Chapter Four through the work of D.W. Winnicott, and Chapter Five investigates a novel by Georges Perec, which ties together those themes in discussion. Reading BIID and PLS through these works ultimately raises questions concerning what we can discover about how we are constituted through signs, and how this affects our sense of self.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


literary theory, film studies, psychoanalysis, phantom limb, body integrity identity disorder, Sigmund Freud, Georges Perec, D.W. Winnicott, Quentin Tarantino, psychosomatics, hysteria, The Red Shoes, Maurice Blanchot, Jacques Lacan, the uncanny, Andre Green

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

English and Comparative Literature


31 January 2017

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

09 Feb 2017 09:35

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:46


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