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Concerto for the Left Hand

Disability and the Defamiliar Body

Davidson, Michael

Publication Year: 2008

Professor Davidson---an accomplished literary critic---offers a focused and balanced analysis of poetry, film, and the arts honed with his excellent knowledge of the latest advances in disability studies. He is brilliant at reading texts in a sophisticated and aesthetically pleasurable way, making Concerto for the Left Hand one of the smartest books to date in disability studies. ---Lennard Davis, University of Illinois, Chicago "Moving elegantly among social theorists and cultural texts, Davidson exemplifies and propels an ethical-aesthetic model for criticism. Davidson asks continuously and with a committed intensity 'where a disability ends and the social order begins' . . . this book brings the study of poetry and poetics into the twenty-first century." ---Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Temple University Concerto for the Left Hand is at the cutting edge of the expanding field of disability studies, offering a wide range of essays that investigate the impact of disability across various art forms---including literature, performance, photography, and film. Rather than simply focusing on the ways in which disabled persons are portrayed, Michael Davidson explores how the experience of disability shapes the work of artists and why disability serves as a vital lens through which to interpret modern culture. Covering an eclectic range of topics---from the phantom missing limb in film noir to the poetry of American Sign Language---this collection delivers a unique and engaging assessment of the interplay between disability and aesthetics. Written in a fluid, accessible style, Concerto for the Left Hand will appeal to both specialists and general audiences. With its interdisciplinary approach, this book should appeal not only to scholars of disability studies but to all those working in minority art, deaf studies, visual culture, and modernism. Michael Davidson is Professor of American Literature at the University of California, San Diego. His other books include Guys Like Us: Citing Masculinity in Cold War Poetics and Ghostlier Demarcations: Modern Poetry and the Material World.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

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Prelude: The Pool

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pp. xiii-xxiii

At the community pool where I swim every day you can see Disability Nation in broad relief. Today, lanes 1 and 2 are given over to the special ed kids from the nearby middle school. They include at least one child with cerebral palsy, another who is probably autistic, others developmentally and neurologically impaired. In lane 3 Helen, who walks with braces and ...

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Introduction: Concerto for the Left Hand

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pp. 1-34

In its short existence as an academic discipline, disability studies has devoted significant attention to the representation of disabled persons in the visual arts, literature, theater, and public life. Disability scholars have studied the ways that cultural forms depend on a putatively normal body to reinforce regimes of national, racial, and sexual normalcy while using the ...

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1. Strange Blood: Hemophobia and the Unexplored Boundaries of Queer Nation

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pp. 35-57

In the late 1970s, the development of freeze-dried blood-clotting factors drawn from multiple donors dramatically affected the lives of persons with hemophilia.1 Until this time, persons with chronic blood diseases had relied on transfusions from whole blood or cryoprecipitate (fresh frozen plasma) administered by a nurse or physician.2 Such transfusions ...

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2. Phantom Limbs: Film Noir’s Volatile Bodies

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pp. 58-79

In Jacques Tourneur’s film Out of the Past (1947), a deaf boy (Dickie Moore) protects Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) from police and gangsters who, for differing reasons, are pursuing him for his role in a murder. Jeff is subsequently killed by the femme fatale, Kathie (Jane Greer) when she discovers that he is handing her over to the police as the killer.When Jeff ’s ...

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3. Hearing Things: The Scandal of Speech in Deaf Performance

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pp. 80-99

In the film version (1986) of Mark Medoff ’s play Children of a Lesser God (1980), James (William Hurt) is a speech instructor at a school for the deaf who believes that his students must be educated into oral culture by being taught to lip-read and speak. He falls in love with Sarah (Marlee Maitlin) who is Deaf but who refuses to participate in his pedagogical project. She ...

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4. Tree Tangled in Tree: Resiting Poetry through ASL

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pp. 100-115

At a 2004 conference on disability studies in the university, Simi Linton spoke about Casey Martin, the golfer who was denied access to the PGA national golf tour because, as someone with a mobility impairment, he needed to ride in an electric cart. As Linton pointed out, his disability is not located in the game of golf—which he plays spectacularly—but in the ....

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5. Missing Larry: The Poetics of Disability in Larry Eigner

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pp. 116-141

The year 2000 marked the tenth anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, an event commemorated in June by a twenty-four-city relay by disabled athletes and activists. The torch for this relay arrived in Southern California, carried by Sarah Will in a jet ski on Venice Beach. After handing the torch to another disabled athlete, Will was lifted into her ...

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6. Nostalgia for Light: Being Blind at the Museum

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pp. 142-167

In the opening of the Proteus chapter of Ulysses Stephen Dedalus wanders on Sandymount Strand, questioning the “ineluctable modality of the visible” by asking if the world disappears when he cannot see it. He tests his ruminations by closing his eyes. What he discovers is not the absence of space but an acute awareness of time, registered through the sound of his own footsteps clattering over the cobbles. What he loses of space he ...

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7. Universal Design: The Work of Disability in an Age of Globalization

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pp. 168

[To view this text, refer to the print version of this title.]

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8. Organs without Bodies: Transplant Narratives in the Global Market

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pp. 197-221

Stephen Frears’s movie Dirty Pretty Things concerns a black-market organ trafficking ring that operates out of a London Hotel. In the film, Senor Juan, the hotel manager who runs the illegal operation, threatens his Nigerian desk clerk, Okwe (Chiwetel Ejiofor), with deportation unless he participates in illegal transplant operations. Okwe, who is a doctor in his ...

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Afterword: Disability and the Defamiliar Body

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pp. 222-230

Thus far in Concerto for the Left Hand I have resisted mentioning my subtitle almost successfully. “Disability and the Defamiliar Body” is my clumsy attempt to characterize the uncanny nature of disability, as a both personal and social form of estrangement. I come to the defamiliar body ...


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pp. 231-250

Works Cited

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pp. 251-265


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pp. 267-280

E-ISBN-13: 9780472025442
E-ISBN-10: 0472025449
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472050338
Print-ISBN-10: 0472050338

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 13 B&W photographs and 2 line drawings
Publication Year: 2008