Suturing a Wounded Body—Wounded Mind in Red Silk on White Linen: Embodied and Hand(Y) Knowledge of Trauma

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In 1830, Elizabeth Parker, daughter of a day laborer and of a teacher in Ashburnham, East Sussex, England, cross-stitched in red silk thread an extraordinarily complex text that participates in several genres, including a memoir of her then brief life of some seventeen years, a confession, a suicide note, and a prayer. These various genres cohere around one momentous event in Parker’s young life: the sexual violation and physical abuse at the hands of her employer, Lt. G. After suturing 46 lines, 1,722 words, and 6,699 characters, she stops mid-line and mid-way down her cloth with the powerful plea, “What will become of my soul[?]” This paper argues that Parker’s sampler was a robust site in which Parker was able to grapple with her wounded body and mind. To justify the claim that a woman’s stitching can be interpreted as an epistemic activity, the proposed paper turns to two key concepts “situated knowledges” and “embodied knowledge”- both of which have been posited by feminists as a way to destabilize the dominant validation of disembodied, abstract thinking where the eye serves as the mind’s tool of investigation. (Haraway; Knappett; Frank; Driver)

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