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|Title:||The Myth of Disability: Disability Theory and Herman Melville's Moby-Dick|
|Authors:||Tombari, Stephanie L.|
|Abstract:||Conventional literary representations of disability reflect and re-inscribe the fraudulent assumption that individuals with impairments are mysterious 'others,' subhuman betrayers of the divinely-sanctioned corporeal norm. When such normative 'myths' are internalized by a social body, the culturally-determined 'disabled' minority is subjected to various forms of oppression and degradation, stigmatizing efforts designed to strip the 'deviants' of agency and dignity. The object ofthis study is to isolate and, subsequently, demythologize the presuppositions ordering such conventional disability myths. This 'demythologizing' effort is patterned, in large part, on the theoretical tenets espoused by Roland Barthes in his influential text Mythologies. Barthes's text, in its emphasis on destabilizing culturally-fixed 'truths,' provides the theoretical framework necessary for gauging the socio-political load of disability myth. In an effort to illumine, moreover, the presence and workings of disability myth in nineteenth and twentieth century Western consciousness, I examine the specific portraits of disability that appear in Herman Melville'sMoby-Dick; Melville's canonized text lends itself particularly well to this type of investigation as its characters -Ahab and Pip, in particular - are representative of the spectrum of negative disability imagery. This critical exercise, in its emphasis on displacing and, thus, de-naturalizing mythic representations of 'normal' and 'abnormal' corporeality, resembles and reinforces the efforts of the Disability Movement and its attempts to restore power and dignity to the unjustly disenfranchised 'disabled' minority.|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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