DOI: 10.1515/zaa-2023-2042 ISSN: 0044-2305

Experience(s) of Decorporation: The Invisibilisation of Care in John Lanchester’s Capital (2012)

Alice Borrego
  • Literature and Literary Theory
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics


In The Ethics of Care (2006), Virginia Held underlines that care cannot be conceived without recognising our interdependence and responsibility for one another. Despite recent efforts to divide our society between private and public spheres, no such clear delimitation is possible in the ethics of care. Yet, as the Covid-19 pandemic has shown, the neoliberal financialisation of healthcare systems is redefining our ability to look after others. John Lanchester’s ‘crunch lit’ novel Capital (2012) draws attention to what I call “experiences of decorporation”: the vulnerable ageing body and the medical system both become victims of a market-logic which invisibilises the cared for, the carer, and the caring. Taking place on a single street in London, the metonymic construction of the novel calls for an analysis of how the illness and death of Petunia Howe, the oldest resident on Pepys Road, is symptomatic of the ethical effacement of the body politic under the clout of neoliberal politics.