‘What Disability Studies can do for Romanticism’
The second in a series of Romanticism Research Forums is taking place on Tuesday 1st June 2010 and features a lecture by Dr Essaka Joshua (Notre Dame University).
In spite of its centrality to the lives of many people of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, physical disability remains at the margins of Romantic studies and only a few aspects of this topic have reached the mainstream. Using the example of William Wordsworth’s “The Discharged Soldier”, this paper will attempt to define a Disability Studies approach to Romanticism, exposing the ways in which non-Disability Studies approaches to the period place limitations on our understanding of disability. While there is much that is problematic about the Romantic engagement with disability, there is, nonetheless, much about the Romantic agenda that anticipates the values that the disability-rights movement has come to promote: equality and tolerance, changing concepts of ability, and the concept of the enabling imagination.
Disability Studies shares with Romantic Studies an interest in tracing the grievances and triumphs of the disenfranchised, exiled and marginalized, in identifying emerging concepts of relational selfhood, in rejecting idealized and perfected imitations of nature, in valuing the expressive subject and life-writing as a mode of self-expression, and in the multiplicity of the meanings of the human body. Romantic emotion is often figured as disablement, and the Romantic imagination is frequently a compensatory response to the frailties of the human body. Wordsworth anticipates modern concepts of intrusive gazing, and grapples with the social and individual complexities of, what Disability Studies has come to term, “charitable models.” In this extraordinary age of revolutionary ways of thinking, emergent concepts of direct significance to modern disability consciousness are everywhere in the ideas of the period.
Essaka Joshua teaches at the University of Notre Dame and is the author of The Romantics and the May Day Tradition (Ashgate, 2007) and Pygmalion and Galatea: The History of a Narrative in English Literature (Ashgate, 2001). She is currently writing a monograph on physical disability in British Romanticism.
The forum is taking place in room M44 at Edge Hill University’s Ormskirk Campus from 5pm-7pm – all welcome. For further information please contact Professor Michael Bradshaw on 01695 650942 or email Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org.