Catalina Florina Florescu, Pace University

The Interplay of Ekphrastic Readings of Femininity Post-Mastectomy


In my talk, I focus on a fictional character, Mia, from my eponymous play about a sophisticated, highly educated woman, who is a college professor of English. Confronted with breast cancer, Mia rips apart patriarchal discourses related to what constitutes femininity. When Mia is diagnosed with breast cancer, she faces more than her illness and the fluctuating side effects of its treatments. Mia discovers she is expected to have two breasts as an imposed, corseted social commentary on her femininity.

Amid pain and suffering, Mia teaches herself a new, fierce and unapologetic, feminine idiom talking freely about how she feels, understands, and values her body as a survivor of breast cancer. In fact, because her left breast is surgically removed, that moment represents her awakening: painful as it is, her mastectomy is symbolically followed by Mia’s cutting with all hypocritical patriarchal discourses she had to follow until that moment in the play.

While Mia is a fictional character, she is reflective of many struggles women face today when it comes to their bodies being invaded by oppressive discourses. When I created Mia, I wanted her to be brave and refuse reconstructive surgery post-mastectomy. In a world dominated by fake beauty and increased usage of costly cosmetic products and plastic surgery, in a world where the body is shamed if it does not follow the pressures of social norms, Mia has decided to choose otherwise. By so doing, she reflects on what matters and opens a dialogue about intrinsic femininity. To enhance this dialogue, in my talk, I also present a series of visual works that confirm Mia’s strong intuition that femininity post-mastectomy has a chance of being respected and accepted if women are willing to speak powerfully, no shameful strings attached whatsoever, no submissive detours into rigid discourses. Needless to say, this means attacking the establishment that has wrongly framed women into one harmful image.


Dr. Catalina Florina Florescu earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Romanian Literature (major) and American Literature (minor) from University of Bucharest. She holds a Master’s Degree and a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. She teaches Introduction to Cultural Studies, 21st century Theater for Social Change, American Drama, Critical Writing, The Individual and Society, Romanticism & the Modern World, and Cinema at Pace University in New York City. Her books are in permanent collections of university libraries worldwide, as well as in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. She is the author of: Transacting Sites of the Liminal Bodily Spaces (literary criticism; narrative medicine; human body); Disjointed Perspectives on Motherhood (mothers in literature & motion picture; feminist criticism); Inventing Me / Exerciții de retrăit (memoir), and Plays. Her fifth book, Transnational Narratives of Englishes in Exile, will be published in 2017 and will be exhibited at the MLA convention, followed by a book launch at the University of Chicago. Her first volume of poetry, The Night I Burned My Origami Skin, will be published later this year. She currently works on a volume of short stories titled Not Yet. She delivered papers at New York University, University of Chicago, Harvard University, L’Université Paris-Sorbonne, Bucknell University, Indiana Bloomington, Brown University, et. al. Her artworks were part of MoMA (Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY), LaLa Gallery and Studio (Lafayette, IN), The Commonwealth Art Gallery, College of Fine Arts, Boston University.

Mia is one the three plays to be published in 2018 by Tracus Arte, a publishing house based in Bucharest, Romania. With Mia, Dr. Florescu had a reading during an event titled “Nothing to Hide: An Evening about the Courage to Heal” at the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York. With her political parable, Suicidal Dog and Laika, she will have another reading at the Immigrants’ Theatre Project in New York City. She hopes to see her plays staged here as well as in Romania.

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