Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Richard Powers's 1998 novel Gain establishes a complicated relationship between its two main characters, a corporation called Clare International and suburban mom named Laura Bodey. Readers, assuming the malignity of such corporations, mistake the hints Laura encounters that Clare is responsible for her ovarian cancer for facts. Such readings overlook the science of ovarian cancer as well as how Powers depicts Laura's relation to her disease. I analyze Laura's understudied half of the novel, framing it as a cancer narrative that reworks conventions of that genre. In placing her cancer in broad social and environmental contexts, Powers eschews the individualist strain that characterizes many illness narratives. In so doing, the novel demands engagement with consumer agency and bodily frailty in the face of corporate dominance.


Book Publisher

Palgrave MacMillan

Journal ISSN / Book ISBN


Book Editor(s)

Neel Ahuja, Monique Allewaert, Lindsey Andrews, Gerry Canavan, Rebecca Evans, Nihad M. Farooq, Erica Fretwell, Nicholas Gaskill, Patrick Jagoda, Erin Gentry Lamb, Jennifer Rhee, Britt Rusert, Matthew A. Taylor, Aarthi Vadde, Priscilla Wald, Rebecca Walsh

Published Citation

Gonzalez, Jeffrey. “Overlapping Agencies: The Collision of Cancer, Consumers, and Corporations in Richard Powers’s Gain.” Palgrave Handbooks on Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Literature and Science, edited by N. Ahuja et. al. Part of Palgrave Handbooks of Literature and Science, ed. Howard Marchitello. Palgrave-McMillan, 2020: 495-508.