NEMLA 2021 Panel Crip-torians: Disability Resistance in the Rehabilitation Era

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Emily Baldys / Millersville University

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


Abstracts should be submitted through the NeMLA website ( by September 30.