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Title: The disabled body in the writing of William Faulkner, Toni Morrison and J.M. Coetzee
Author: Hall, A.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis considers the representation of disabled bodies in the fictional and critical writing of William Faulkner, Toni Morrison and J. M. Coetzee. Virginia Woolf’s claim, early in the twentieth century, that the experience of invalidity constituted an ‘undiscovered country’ in literature and criticism, is a starting point. The thesis is interdisciplinary, drawing upon the emerging field of disability studies as well as literary criticism, philosophy, ethics and cultural studies. I examine the roles played by Faulkner, Morrison and Coetzee as academics, public intellectuals, curators and publishers, as well as writers of fiction. My project is engaged with shifting historical definitions and aesthetic understandings of disability which I show to be a fundamentally unstable concept. Diverse conditions of mental and physical disability are represented in the writing of the chosen authors, from Benjy’s ‘feeble mindedness’ in Faulkner’s’ The Sound and the Fury (1929) to the ageing, wasting bodies of Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year (2007). In the first chapter, I explore how Faulkner’s representation of mental impairment reconfigures sensory perception and the narrative mode itself. Morrison’s focus on conditions of physical disability, I argue, is bound up with her fascination with the ambiguous beauty of ‘foreign bodies’ in both her novels and the exhibition that she curated at the Louvre in 2006. The two final chapters examine Coetzee’s notion of bodily and literary lateness through a depiction of the disabling process of ageing and the role of disability as metaphor in the Nobel Prize lectures of all three authors. The question of how an able-bodied author or reader might empathise with a disabled character is central to my examination of how literature can help us to better understand the experience of, and issues surrounding, disability in twentieth century literature and twenty first century society.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available