Representation of Disability in Literature (Part 1) (Panel)


Cultural Studies and Media Studies / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Jason D'Angelo (Georgetown University)

Michelle Hardy (Georgetown University)

Disability is a fundamental human experience, as well as a bodily condition, a political issue, social identity, and marginalized community struggling for equality. Despite the prevalence of images and conceptions of disability in both literature and language, disability is a topic which remains largely unspoken today. Disability metaphors, disabled characters in canonical literature, and works by authors who are influenced by their subjective experiences with disability and illness, all show that disability is present in literature, but what are the implications of literary representations of disability? By complicating and challenging assumptions about identity, normativity and marginality, disability challenges social fictions about the human experience. Disability is a subject for critical inquiry which supplements our current versions of narrative theory and extends current theoretical paradigms. What further dimensions does analyzing a text through the critical lens of disability reveal?

We invite papers on topics that include, but are not limited to:

1) autobiographical subjects – people with disabilities narrating their experiences through autobiography (e.g. conflicts of self-representation and society’s views, contesting current ideologies about disability, etc.)

2) narratological conceptions of disability

3) conceptions of disability in non-narrative genres or media

4) intersectionality – conceptions of disability, gender, sexuality, race, and class

5) disability as a magnet for hyperbolic meaning in text (e.g. stock feature of characterization, opportunistic metaphorical device, furthering stereotypes/stigmas/otherness)

We encourage submissions from all language and literature departments as well as Disability Studies and neighboring disciplines.



This panel will explore the ways in which disability is represented in literature. The purpose is to show how a disability lens can complicate and challenge our textual narratives and inquiries in literature. Papers about conceptualizations of disability, intersectional identities, narrative genres, the stories of persons with disabilities, and more are welcome, from all language and literary departments and neighboring disciplines.