Disability Aesthetics: New Directions (ACLA 2018 Seminar)

deadline for submissions: 
September 21, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
American Comparative Literature Association
contact email: 

Disability studies has a problem with representation. Michael Bérubé locates the roots of this problem in two dominant trajectories of literary disability studies. The first trajectory largely pursues a logic of identification and revelation, a tactic for demonstrating the ubiquity of disabled characters and the overwhelmingly negative thematics attached to their peripheral bodyminds. The second trajectory depends on diagnosing characters as disabled that have not been explicitly designated as such. If disability aesthetics, however, names a sense of “beauty that seems by traditional standards to be broken, and yet it is not less beautiful, but more so, as a result” (Siebers), then disability might produce beauty or the sublime in the absence of disabled characters altogether.

This seminar seeks to extend the consideration of disability aesthetics beyond the representational across a range of media. Bérubé breaks from representation through his study of disability “deployments”—meaning narrative strategies separate from characterization—while David T. Mitchell and Sharon Snyder turn over new representational earth in their investigation of “antinormative novels of embodiment.” Such novels resist imagining disability as the diminished antithesis of compulsory ablebodiedness and emphasize the structural limitations of ableist social systems.

We welcome presentations that continue this investigation by addressing the following or other related topics in a variety of media.

  • Antinormative narratives & bodyminds
  • Disability and aesthetic form
  • Narrative prosthesis
  • Disability as narrative strategy
  • Aesthetic nervous and narratology
  • Disability and visual culture
  • New materialist approaches to disability
  • Disability (re)presentations (limits and unexpected new terrain)
  • Reclamations of disability as figure
  • Disability poetics
  • Interdependence and practices of textual consumption
  • Disability and genre
  • Posthuman aesthetics and nonnormative bodyminds
  • Other “deployments”