NeMLA: Resilience and Resistance: Embracing Disability Narratives in 19th-century Fiction

deadline for submissions: 
September 25, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
NeMLA 2023 Conference
contact email: 

Resilience and Resistance: Embracing Disability Narratives in Nineteenth-Century Fiction proposes a space for scholars to present research on disability studies and narrative agency in British fiction from the period. Disability studies is concerned with altering the contemporary political landscape to procure protections for disabled individuals and communities, question structures which uphold barriers to equal access, and challenge ideologies of ability that affirm ableist notions of social participation. Disability studies also challenges individuals and scholars to analyze the historical, literary, medical, and social understandings of disability to dismantle ableist structures. In particular, literary disability studies offers scholars the opportunity to analyze literary works for portrayals of disability, illness, and ableism to better understand literature’s role in resisting or adhering to traditional understandings of disability as negative and other. Works of this period offer insight into a variety of social and political changes, including poverty, social work, education, medical institution reform, public health, and more. The literary works of this period reveal much about these social and political changes, especially along the lines of visible and invisible disabilities, marginalization of non-conforming bodies, and the trauma resulting from the treatment of individuals and groups deemed other. This panel challenges scholars to reexamine major works of nineteenth-century British fiction to question literary portrayals of disability, to uncover alternative readings which might resist negative portrayals of disability, and to pursue readings of disability resilience in relationships and communities.

This panel will reexamine major and minor works of 19thC British fiction to question literary portrayals of disability, to uncover alternative readings which might resist negative and/or abelist portrayals of disability, and to pursue readings of disability resilience in relationships and communities.