Haiguse kujutamine luuletaja Ilmi Kolla kirjades
DEPICTION OF DISEASE IN THE LETTERS OF POET ILMI KOLLA
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Private letters are the least researched genre of autobiographical writings. Irrespective of this fact, letters can indeed offer abundant research material about the ailing person’s perceptions of the disease and how he/she depicts this in writing. The article dwells upon the depiction of disease, based on the letters by Ilmi Kolla (1933–1954), using the concept of (auto)pathography as an analytical means. The focus is on how the illness is being textualised in letters and how the epistolary genre affects such a depiction. Ilmi Kolla’s letters reflect the progress of her disease, presenting this from the author’s viewpoint, yet adapting it according the addressees – e.g., Ilmi Kolla’s letters to her mother are written in a more optimistic tone regarding her illness than the ones to poet Debora Vaarandi expressing greater concern. The letters reveal various facets of the disease and her state of mind with regard to the illness, presenting a picture of sanatorium and hospital treatment. In line with the growing severity of Ilmi Kolla’s disease, the illness becomes gradually more visible in her letters, encompassing increasing textual space. Thus, the ailment has become one of the main topics in I. Kolla’s letters sent from the hospital during the last six months of her life. The fact that letters tend to be fragmentary texts separated from each other by a temporal-spatial distance becomes evident in the narrative of disease constructed by the letters. Although such an illness narrative lacks coherence intrinsic of a traditional linear autobiographic text, such a life history or a diary, an epistolary story of an illness can be studied from the viewpoint of auto-pathography as the letters create an autobiographic description of the illness. As unpublished texts, letters can both reflect and oppose the discourses of the time. The depiction of the disease, and that of an ailing body, revealed in Ilmi Kolla’s letters, functions as a counter-discourse to the body image of the Stalinist era, which highlighted a healthy, strong and powerful female body. As such, the reflection of the disease in the letters actually brings out the cultural and gender-wise meanings related to the disease, highlighting the illness as a cultural construct.
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