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The Disabled Body: Style, Identity and Life-Writing

By Thomas Coogan


The Disabled Body investigates disability life-writing and what it reveals about the experience of disability, disability studies and its attendant identity politics, and the role of embodiment in writing. It combines a comparative analysis of theoretical models with close readings of a range of inter-related primary texts in order to theorise new, literary ways of appreciating disability and embodiment.\ud \ud The thesis begins by focusing on the limitations of the dominant social model of disability and their impact upon approaches to disability life-writing within disability studies. Expanding upon Tom Shakespeare's assertion that the social model is a political intervention rather than a robust theoretical model, I argue that the rejection of autobiography by initial literary approaches to disbaility in the 1990s was based on the criteria of the identity politics informed by the social model, which disregards individual, personal and experiential accounts of disability as embodiment.\ud A growing number of thinkers, such as Rose Galvin and Jim Swan, have since criticised the social model for such neglect. By combining such positions, I construct a theoretical framework through which to re-examine autobiographical writing with regard to four authors with disabilities presented as a sequence of case studies: Christy Brown, Christopher Nolan, Ruth Sienkiewicz-Mercer and Christopher Reeve.\ud Following G. Thomas Couser's distinction between writing from 'disability experience' and writing from 'disability culture', I complement analyses of this sequence of autobiographies with an examination of several anthologies of writing by disabled authors, which are implicated in a 'disability culture' based on social model identity politics.\ud In the course of this thesis I demonstrate how an analysis of the experiential aspect of disability life-writing can bring a new understanding of the way in which the body makes itself known in language, which is of significance not only to literary disability studies in general but also to the wider field of literary studies

Publisher: University of Leicester
Year: 2008
OAI identifier:

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