Quartz Heart

“With her, I understood finally what it meant to want my hand on a lover’s skin, the weight of a lover’s body against mine. A bone long fractured, now mending (156).”


This is a line from “Stones in my Pocket, Stones in my Heart” but it wouldn’t be out of place in “Written on the Body”. Clare’s intensely personal work on identity in Exile and Pride provides a great lens to look at “Written on the Body” through. The narrator in WotB shaped their identity based on how others perceived them but found themself through Louise. “but then I turn a corner and recognise myself again. Myself in your skin, myself lodged in your bones, myself floating in the cavities that decorate every surgeon’s wall. That is how I know you. You are what I know (Winterson,pg ). 

  Written on the Body is a book not just about love, but identity. Something that could be seen in both works was how one’s identity is shaped by how others perceive them. In WotB the lack of identity given to the narrator is focal to the book. While they are characterized, they can shift with how other perceive them and how they wanted to be perceived (examples of this is how they went from busting the patriarchy with Ignes to going to church with  .A chameleon, able to morph and shift their being with what they want to be seen as. How queer.

  Yet identity isn’t as easy as choice. Throughout our reading of WOTB, some people have assigned the narrator masculinity based off of the slap, and that subsequently changed how they read his character. Yet others assigned them female, due to the lack of seriousness the narrator was treated with in both the scene with the gun and her affairs with married women as well as the flowing, disconcerting style of thought she had. These don’t inform us how the narrator identifies, but it does inform how they were treated. This can shape their identity – or the perception of others can leave one floundering on how they truly identity.

     Identity is agency. Clare’s talk of stolen and reclaimed bodies allows us to see the way that identity is a complex form of agency, particularly for marginalized individuals. His identification with the term butch as a way to make room for his gender and the messy margins it resides in, is an act of power, by pushing aside the hetro-cis-normative gender roles that cast him as female and the ableist stereotypes that cast him as an asexual, genderless being because of his disability. He found a place within queer and disabled communities where he could begin to chip away af the rocky avalanche that is identity, the self, and how he identifies himself. 

    Meanwhile, we know nothing about the narrator on WotB except for their actions. It’s up to them to create an identity outside of others, but with Louise, we see both more of themself being pushed to the surface and more buried deep, locked away to prevent them from being who they actually are, their identity superseded by others preferences. 


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An Ember in the Wind - They/Them or Fae/Faer pronouns - Here, Queer, and my Joint Pain is Moderate to Severe - :)

2 thoughts on “Quartz Heart”

  1. I think this relates well to the post “The Body as a Collective Home.” That post analyzes how Clare views bodies as never fully our own, as they are amalgamations of other people’s identities that are either pushed onto us or taken in. I think this way of viewing identity is especially relevant when considering the narrator of “Written on the Body,” who, as you write, is constantly changing themself to adapt to the needs of others. While this shows agency in being able to choose identity, they are never fully able to choose which “body” best suits their own needs.

  2. I love your analysis here. I think your connections between the two works is apparent and strong! I really like your point, “Identity is agency. Clare’s talk of stolen and reclaimed bodies allows us to see the way that identity is a complex form of agency, particularly for marginalized individuals.” And thus how we can see that in our own lives and the things we read, like Written on the Body. Clare’s conception of identity and the body gives us a framework to look at other works through. I think both Clare and Winterson have a similar definition of the body but both are sensual and connected to touch and feeling as well as gender/sexuality.

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