Catherine Bloomer (Columbia University)
Alani Hicks-Bartlett (Brown University)
This panel puts forward premodern disability as enhancement, surplus, or even reward, drawing from the concept of “disability gain,” coined by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson (Fox, Krings, Vierke, 2019), to reformulate disability as gain, instead of loss, or as a resource. The concept is based on H-Dirksen Bauman and Joseph Murray’s concept of “Deaf gain,” which approaches Deafness as a benefit that expands social, cultural, intellectual, and creative fields (2014). While this concept has yet to be applied to premodern disability, reading disability in premodern texts through the lens of “disability gain” may allow the modern scholar to reframe and discuss the premodern body outside of ethnocentric systems.
In particular, while surfeit may be considered as that which is leftover or unwanted, we ask scholars to question the designation of premodern disabled bodies as surfeit and instead posit the possibilities open to scholarship when the body is read in terms of surplus. As such, we welcome contributions devoted to the long genealogy of literary and historical representations of the body to apply a material understanding to the premodern disabled body. We invite papers that dialogue with contemporary critical theory and recent interventions in disability studies, and also invite interdisciplinary work that engages with conceptions of disability as excess, surfeit, and surplus.
This panel asks disability studies to follow the recent concept of disability gain to reconsider and reimagine the premodern disabled body. Through this framework, we may consider the body in terms of reward, excess, surfeit, and surplus.