CFP: Disability Resistance in Victorian Literature at Northeast MLA Convention

Emily Baldys's picture
Call for Papers
September 30, 2020
Pennsylvania, United States
Subject Fields: 
British History / Studies, Literature

Proposals for virtual or face-to-face paper presentations are due September 30 on the NeMLA website. NeMLA 2021 is scheduled for March 11-14 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Panel: "Crip-torians: Disability Resistance in the Rehabilitation Era"

19th-century Britain witnessed the convergence of many historical trends that exacerbated disability stigma, even as the era embraced a rehabilitative ethos. The growth of specialized medicine, the expansion of a sprawling asylum system, institutional categorization of the poor, public health initiatives, and the rise of eugenics: all these and more spawned attitudes and practices that worked to disable those who were physically and mentally impaired.

While Victorian literature’s role in enforcing bodily norms has been thoroughly scrutinized, this panel seeks papers that examine the innovative ways in which disabled Victorian authors and allies wrote back against rehabilitative discourse. How did literature enable Victorians to resist what disability studies scholar Eli Clare has termed an “ideology of cure?” In what ways did Victorian texts offer possibilities for envisioning radically crip spaces, identities, and ways of knowing? Where and how did literature acknowledge the lived experience of disability, and how might these early resistances have coalesced toward a proto-disability justice discourse?

Possible paper topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Asylum escapes and cautionary tales
  • Texts that resist rehabilitation
  • Literary responses to periodical debates
  •  Anti-eugenic influences in literature
  • Texts that privilege the lived experience of disability over metaphorical interpretations
  • Early formulations of intersectionality
  • Victorian #ownvoices

Submit abstracts by September 30 on the NeMLA website.

Contact Info: 

Dr. Emily Baldys

Millersville University