This essay reconsiders the representation of cognitive disability in literature, suggesting a new mode of reading in which the disabled character is viewed as a dynamic figure with an identity, and corresponding set of formal implications, that the reader comes to know over the progression of the story. Focusing on Benjy’s section in The Sound and the Fury, I examine the specific disabled modality by which Faulkner’s narrator organizes the world: object attention. Benjy uses objects to constellate his experiences, and a latent pattern of object deployment undergirds the narrative. As Benjy “tries to say” his story, he crafts a narrative that generates from his object attachments, allowing readers to make sense of his experience in a novel form—if we only try to see it. My analysis suggests that the appeal of fiction about cognitive disability lies not in confronting some fundamental inaccessibility of the disabled subject or the world he inhabits, but in wrestling with the strictures of a text’s accessibility so that the subject or world might come to be known.


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pp. 368-395
Launched on MUSE
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