restricted access Otherwise Undisclosed: Blood, Species, and Benjy Compson’s Idiocy


The article critiques the biologization of intellectual disability as speciesist pathology using as case studies William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury and a headline about a post-natal blood test. Following Ellen Samuels’s work on “fantasies of identification,” and aiming to bridge animal studies and disability studies, it settles into a sustained examination of how Benjy Compson, a canonical idiot figure, has perpetuated a hermeneutic of hemophobia (i.e., an anxiety about blood) and zoophobia (i.e., an anxiety about species). In response, a new approach to Benjy is proposed: reading for the tropological confusion of idiocy and caninity. This approach unlocks a subtext in Faulkner’s novel, which destabilizes the social script responsible for diagnosing Benjy’s idiocy as a consequence of “bad blood”—a eugenics-inflected script that extends to today’s technologies of biological identification.