2017 Student Research Conference:
30th Annual Student Research Conference

Depictions of Breast Cancer and Female Struggle in Frances Burney’s “A Mastectomy”


Laura L. Hedrick
Dr. Bob Mielke, Faculty Mentor

In August of 1810, writer Frances Burney felt a sharp pain in her breast; about a year later, she underwent an excruciating primitive mastectomy, without the help of modern anesthesia. Burney recounts her struggle in a letter to her sister detailing one of the biggest losses a woman can experience and all the physical, emotional, and psychological trauma that comes with it. Burney’s honesty combined with the sheer rawness of her prose has the power to connect breast cancer survivors across time. Integrating a first-hand account from a breast cancer survivor, this research essay will define Burney’s letter as a patient narrative of literary merit, address the roles of men in Burney’s experience, and explore ideas of femininity and bodily autonomy in the face of this deeply personal disease.


Keywords: Frances Burney, breast cancer, cancer, letter, female, mastectomy


Presentation Type: Oral Paper

Session: 304-1
Location: MG 1098
Time: 1:00

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