University of Michigan Press

Corporealities: Discourses of Disability

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Corporealities: Discourses of Disability

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The Metanarrative of Blindness

A Re-reading of Twentieth-Century Anglophone Writing

David Bolt

Although the theme of blindness occurs frequently in literature, literary criticism has rarely engaged the experiential knowledge of people with visual impairments. The Metanarrative of Blindness counters this trend by bringing to readings of twentieth-century works in English a perspective appreciative of impairment and disability. Author David Bolt examines representations of blindness in more than forty literary works, including writing by Kipling, Joyce, Synge, Orwell, H. G. Wells, Susan Sontag, and Stephen King, shedding light on the deficiencies of these representations and sometimes revealing an uncomfortable resonance with the Anglo-American science of eugenics. What connects these seemingly disparate works is what Bolt calls “the metanarrative of blindness,” a narrative steeped in mythology and with deep roots in Western culture. Bolt examines literary representations of blindness using the analytical tools of disability studies in both the humanities and social sciences. His readings are also broadly appreciative of personal, social, and cultural aspects of disability, with the aim of bringing literary scholars to the growing discipline of disability studies, and vice versa. This interdisciplinary monograph is relevant to people working in literary studies, disability studies, psychology, sociology, applied linguistics, life writing, and cultural studies, as well as those with a general interest in education and representations of blindness.

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Moving Beyond Prozac, DSM, and the New Psychiatry

The Birth of Postpsychiatry

Bradley Lewis

Interesting and fresh-represents an important and vigorous challenge to a discipline that at the moment is stuck in its own devices and needs a radical critique to begin to move ahead. --Paul McHugh, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine "Remarkable in its breadth-an interesting and valuable contribution to the burgeoning literature of the philosophy of psychiatry." --Christian Perring, Dowling College Moving Beyond Prozac, DSM, and the New Psychiatry looks at contemporary psychiatric practice from a variety of critical perspectives ranging from Michel Foucault to Donna Haraway. This contribution to the burgeoning field of medical humanities contends that psychiatry's move away from a theory-based model (one favoring psychoanalysis and other talk therapies) to a more scientific model (based on new breakthroughs in neuroscience and pharmacology) has been detrimental to both the profession and its clients. This shift toward a science-based model includes the codification of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to the status of standard scientific reference, enabling mental-health practitioners to assign a tidy classification for any mental disturbance or deviation. Psychiatrist and cultural studies scholar Bradley Lewis argues for "postpsychiatry," a new psychiatric practice informed by the insights of poststructuralist theory.

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Narrative Prosthesis

Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse

David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder

Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse develops a narrative theory of the pervasive use of disability as a device of characterization in literature and film. It argues that, while other marginalized identities have suffered cultural exclusion due to a dearth of images reflecting their experience, the marginality of disabled people has occurred in the midst of the perpetual circulation of images of disability in print and visual media. The manuscript's six chapters offer comparative readings of key texts in the history of disability representation, including the tin soldier and lame Oedipus, Montaigne's "infinities of forms" and Nietzsche's "higher men," the performance history of Shakespeare's Richard III, Melville's Captain Ahab, the small town grotesques of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio and Katherine Dunn's self-induced freaks in Geek Love.David T. Mitchell is Associate Professor of Literature and Cultural Studies, Northern Michigan University. Sharon L. Snyder is Assistant Professor of Film and Literature, Northern Michigan University.

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Portraits of Violence

War and the Aesthetics of Disfigurement

Suzannah Biernoff

Portraits of Violence explores the image and idea of facial disfigurement in one of its most troubling modern formations, as a symbol and consequence of war. It opens with Nina Berman’s iconic photograph Marine Wedding, which provoked a debate about the medical, military, and psychological response to serious combat injuries. While these issues remain urgent, it is equally crucial to interrogate the representation of war and injury. The concepts of valor, heroism, patriotism, and courage assume visible form and do their cultural work when they are personified and embodied. The mutilated or disabled veteran’s body can connote the brutalizing, dehumanizing potential of modern combat.
 
Suzannah Biernoff draws on a wide variety of sources mainly from WWI but also contemporary photography and computer games. Each chapter revolves around particular images: Marine Wedding is discussed alongside Stuart Griffiths’ portraits of British veterans; Henry Tonks’ drawings of WWI facial casualties are compared to the medical photographs in the Gillies Archives; the production of portrait masks for the severely disfigured is approached through the lens of documentary film and photography; and finally the haunting image of one of Tonks’s patients reappears in BioShock, a highly successful computer game. The book simultaneously addresses a neglected area in disability studies; puts disfigurement on the agenda for art history and visual studies; and makes a timely and provocative contribution to the literature on the First World War.

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Revels in Madness

Insanity in Medicine and Literature

Allen Thiher

Fascinating and important . . . a work of prodigious scholarship, covering the entire history of Western thought and treating both literary and medical discourses with subtlety and verve. ---Louis Sass, author of Madness and Modernism "The scope of this book is daunting, ranging from madness in the ancient Greco-Roman world, to Christianized concepts of medieval folly, through the writings of early modern authors such as Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Descartes, and on to German Romantic philosophy, fin de siècle French poetry, and Freud . . . Artaud, Duras, and Plath." ---Isis "This provocative and closely argued work will reward many readers." ---Choice In Revels in Madness, Allen Thiher surveys a remarkable range of writers as he shows how conceptions of madness in literature have reflected the cultural assumptions of their era. Thiher underscores the transition from classical to modern theories of madness-a transition that began at the end of the Enlightenment and culminates in recent women's writing that challenges the postmodern understanding of madness as a fall from language or as a dysfunction of culture.

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Shakin' All Over

Popular Music and Disability

George McKay

Given the explosion in recent years of scholarship exploring the ways in which disability is manifested and performed in numerous cultural spaces, it’s surprising that until now there has never been a single monograph study covering the important intersection of popular music and disability. George McKay’s Shakin’ All Over is a cross-disciplinary examination of the ways in which popular music performers have addressed disability: in their songs, in their live performances, and in various media presentations. By looking closely into the work of artists such as Johnny Rotten, Neil Young, Johnnie Ray, Ian Dury, Teddy Pendergrass, Curtis Mayfield, and Joni Mitchell, McKay investigates such questions as how popular music works to obscure and accommodate the presence of people with disabilities in its cultural practice. He also examines how popular musicians have articulated the experiences of disability (or sought to pass), or have used their cultural arena for disability advocacy purposes.

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Signifying Bodies

Disability in Contemporary Life Writing

Thomas Couser's Signifying Bodies comes at a crucial moment when debates about physician assisted suicide, genetic engineering, and neo-natal screening are raising the question of what constitutes a 'life worth living' for persons with disabilities. Couser's work engages these debates by exploring the extensive number of personal narratives by or about persons with disabilities. As Couser brilliantly demonstrates through synoptic readings, these works challenge the 'preferred rhetorics' by which such narratives are usually written (triumphalist, gothic, nostalgic) while making visible the variegated nature of embodied life. ---Michael Davidson, University of California, San Diego "Signifying Bodies shows us that life writing about disability is . . . everywhere. . . . From obituary to documentary film to ethnography to literary memoir to the law, the book casts a wide net, detailing how various written and filmed responses to disability both enact and resist conventional narrative patterns. [This] not only broadens our idea about where to look for life writing, but also demonstrates how thoroughly stereotypes about disability mediate our social and artistic languages---even when an author has (so-called) the best intentions." ---Susannah B. Mintz, Skidmore College Memoirs have enjoyed great popularity in recent years, experiencing significant sales, prominent reviews, and diverse readerships. Signifying Bodies shows that at the heart of the memoir phenomenon is our fascination with writing that focuses on what it means to live in, or be, an anomalous body---in other words, what it means to be disabled. Previous literary accounts of the disabled body have often portrayed it as a stable entity possibly signifying moral deviance or divine disfavor, but contemporary writers with disabilities are defining themselves and depicting their bodies in new ways. Using the insights of disability studies and source material ranging from the Old and New Testaments to the works of authors like Lucy Grealy and Simi Linton and including contemporary films such as Million Dollar Baby, G. Thomas Couser sheds light on a broader cultural phenomenon, exploring topics such as the ethical issues involved in disability memoirs, the rhetorical patterns they frequently employ, and the complex relationship between disability narrative and disability law. G. Thomas Couser is Professor of English at Hofstra University.

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The Staff of Oedipus

Transforming Disability in Ancient Greece

Martha L. Rose

Ancient Greek images of disability permeate the Western consciousness: Homer, Teiresias, and Oedipus immediately come to mind. But The Staff of Oedipus looks at disability in the ancient world through the lens of disability studies, and reveals that our interpretations of disability in the ancient world are often skewed. These false assumptions in turn lend weight to modern-day discriminatory attitudes toward disability. Martha Rose considers a range of disabilities and the narratives surrounding them. She examines not only ancient literature, but also papyrus, skeletal material, inscriptions, sculpture, and painting, and draws upon modern work, including autobiographies of people with disabilities, medical research, and theoretical work in disability studies. Her study uncovers the realities of daily life for people with disabilities in ancient Greece, and challenges the translation of the term adunatos (unable) as "disabled," with all its modern associations. Martha Rose is Associate Professor of History, Truman State University.

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Stumbling Blocks Before the Blind

Medieval Constructions of a Disability

Edward Wheatley

Bold, deeply learned, and important, offering a provocative thesis that is worked out through legal and archival materials and in subtle and original readings of literary texts. Absolutely new in content and significantly innovative in methodology and argument, Stumbling Blocks Before the Blind offers a cultural geography of medieval blindness that invites us to be more discriminating about how we think of geographies of disability today.---Christopher Baswell, Columbia University"A challenging, interesting, and timely book that is also very well written . . . Wheatley has researched and brought together a leitmotiv that I never would have guessed was so pervasive, so intriguing, so worthy of a book."---Jody Enders, University of California, Santa BarbaraStumbling Blocks Before the Blind presents the first comprehensive exploration of a disability in the Middle Ages, drawing on the literature, history, art history, and religious discourse of England and France. It relates current theories of disability to the cultural and institutional constructions of blindness in the eleventh through fifteenth centuries, examining the surprising differences in the treatment of blind people and the responses to blindness in these two countries. The book shows that pernicious attitudes about blindness were partially offset by innovations and ameliorations---social; literary; and, to an extent, medical---that began to foster a fuller understanding and acceptance of blindness.A number of practices and institutions in France, both positive and negative---blinding as punishment, the foundation of hospices for the blind, and some medical treatment---resulted in not only attitudes that commodified human sight but also inhumane satire against the blind in French literature, both secular and religious. Anglo-Saxon and later medieval England differed markedly in all three of these areas, and the less prominent position of blind people in society resulted in noticeably fewer cruel representations in literature.This book will interest students of literature, history, art history, and religion because it will provide clear contexts for considering any medieval artifact relating to blindness---a literary text, a historical document, a theological treatise, or a work of art. For some readers, the book will serve as an introduction to the field of disability studies, an area of increasing interest both within and outside of the academy.Edward Wheatley is Surtz Professor of Medieval Literature at Loyola University, Chicago.

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