Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Plural Singularities: The Disability Community in Life-Writing Texts

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2011), 5, (3), 321–337.

Abstract

The article explores the potential for the singular voice of the life-writing text to create an emancipatory disability group identity by featuring stories of disabled people and groups. While disabled others have been studied in the past for how they relate to the autobiographical subject, their depiction is itself a form of disability representation that can contribute to the positive construction of the disability community and amplify the autobiographer's call to action by corroborating her experiences, thereby giving her voice greater social and political significance. Disability communities are identified in texts by Mary Grimley Mason, Eli Clare, and Nancy Mairs and are shown to be central to Simi Linton's My Body Politic. Linton's narrative of her entrance into the disability community functions as a metanarrative about autobiography that challenges notions about the singular, isolated voice often associated with the genre. The multifaceted and vibrant disability communities featured in Linton's and other disability autobiographies reinforce the efficacy of disability life writing as a tool to shape social and political ideologies about the body and identity.

Access Token
£25.00
READ THIS ARTICLE
If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Asch, Adrienne, and Michelle Fine. "Nurturance, Sexuality, and Women with Disabilities: The Example of Women and Literature." The Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Lennard J. Davis. New York: Routledge, 1997. 241–59. Print. Google Scholar

Clare, Eli. Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation. Cambridge: South End P, 1999. Print. Google Scholar

Couser, G. Thomas. Signifying Bodies: Disability in Contemporary Life Writing. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2009. Print. Google Scholar

Davis, Lennard J. Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body. London: Verso, 1997. Print. Google Scholar

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy. New York: Holt, 2007. Print. Google Scholar

Finger, Anne. "Writing Disabled Lives: Beyond the Singular." PMLA 120.2 (2004): 610–15. Print. Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. "Disability and Representation." PMLA 120.2 (2004): 522–27. Print. Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. "Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory." Gendering Disability. Ed. Bonnie G. Smith and Beth Hutchison. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2004. 73–106. Print. Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. "Shape Structures Story: Fresh and Feisty Stories about Disability." Narrative 15.1 (2007): 113–23. Modern Language Association. Web. 5 Dec. 2009. Google Scholar

Grimley Mason, Mary. Life Prints: A Memoir of Healing and Discovery. New York: Feminist P, 2000. Print. Google Scholar

Linton, Simi. Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity. New York: New York UP, 1998. Print. Google Scholar

Linton, Simi. My Body Politic: A Memoir. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2007. Print. Google Scholar

Lionnet, Françoise. "The Politics and Aesthetics of Métissage." (1989). Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader. Ed. Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1998. 325–36. Print. Google Scholar

Mairs, Nancy. Waist High in the World: A Life among the Non-Disabled. Boston: Beacon, 1996. Print. Google Scholar

Miner, Madonne. "'Making Up Stories as We Go Along': Men, Women, and Narratives of Disability." The Body and Physical Difference: Discourses of Disability. Ed. David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1997. 283–96. Print. Google Scholar

Mintz, Susannah B. Unruly Bodies: Life Writing by Women with Disabilities. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 2007. Print. Google Scholar

Mitchell, David T. "Body Solitaire: The Singular Subject of Disability Autobiography." American Quarterly 52.2 (2000): 311–15. Project Muse. Web. 15 Dec. 2009. Google Scholar

Mitchell, David T., and Sharon L. Snyder. "Introduction." The Body and Physical Difference: Discourses of Disability. Ed. David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2000. 1–34. Print. Google Scholar

O'Toole, Corbett Joan. "The Sexist Inheritance of the Disability Movement." Gendering Disability. Ed. Bonnie G. Smith and Beth Hutchison. New Jersey: Rutgers UP, 2004. 294– 300. Print. Google Scholar

Siebers, Tobin. "Disability in Theory: From Social Constructionism to the New Realism of the Body." American Literary History 13.4 (2001): 737–54. JSTOR. Web. 4 Dec. 2008. Google Scholar

Smith, Sidonie, and Julie Watson. Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2001. Print. Google Scholar

Stanford Friedman, Susan. "Women's Autobiographical Selves: Theory and Practice." (1988). Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader. Ed. Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson. Madison: University of Wisconsin P, 1998. 72–83. Print. Google Scholar

Sweet Wong, Hertha D. "First-Person Plural: Subjectivity and Community in Native American Women's Autobiography." (1996). Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader. Ed. Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson. Madison: University of Wisconsin P, 1998. 168–82. Print. Google Scholar

Asch, Adrienne, and Michelle Fine. "Nurturance, Sexuality, and Women with Disabilities: The Example of Women and Literature." The Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Lennard J. Davis. New York: Routledge, 1997. 241–59. Print. Google Scholar

Clare, Eli. Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation. Cambridge: South End P, 1999. Print. Google Scholar

Couser, G. Thomas. Signifying Bodies: Disability in Contemporary Life Writing. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2009. Print. Google Scholar

Davis, Lennard J. Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body. London: Verso, 1997. Print. Google Scholar

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy. New York: Holt, 2007. Print. Google Scholar

Finger, Anne. "Writing Disabled Lives: Beyond the Singular." PMLA 120.2 (2004): 610–15. Print. Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. "Disability and Representation." PMLA 120.2 (2004): 522–27. Print. Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. "Integrating Disability, Transforming Feminist Theory." Gendering Disability. Ed. Bonnie G. Smith and Beth Hutchison. New Brunswick: Rutgers UP, 2004. 73–106. Print. Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. "Shape Structures Story: Fresh and Feisty Stories about Disability." Narrative 15.1 (2007): 113–23. Modern Language Association. Web. 5 Dec. 2009. Google Scholar

Grimley Mason, Mary. Life Prints: A Memoir of Healing and Discovery. New York: Feminist P, 2000. Print. Google Scholar

Linton, Simi. Claiming Disability: Knowledge and Identity. New York: New York UP, 1998. Print. Google Scholar

Linton, Simi. My Body Politic: A Memoir. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2007. Print. Google Scholar

Lionnet, Françoise. "The Politics and Aesthetics of Métissage." (1989). Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader. Ed. Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1998. 325–36. Print. Google Scholar

Mairs, Nancy. Waist High in the World: A Life among the Non-Disabled. Boston: Beacon, 1996. Print. Google Scholar

Miner, Madonne. "'Making Up Stories as We Go Along': Men, Women, and Narratives of Disability." The Body and Physical Difference: Discourses of Disability. Ed. David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1997. 283–96. Print. Google Scholar

Mintz, Susannah B. Unruly Bodies: Life Writing by Women with Disabilities. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 2007. Print. Google Scholar

Mitchell, David T. "Body Solitaire: The Singular Subject of Disability Autobiography." American Quarterly 52.2 (2000): 311–15. Project Muse. Web. 15 Dec. 2009. Google Scholar

Mitchell, David T., and Sharon L. Snyder. "Introduction." The Body and Physical Difference: Discourses of Disability. Ed. David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2000. 1–34. Print. Google Scholar

O'Toole, Corbett Joan. "The Sexist Inheritance of the Disability Movement." Gendering Disability. Ed. Bonnie G. Smith and Beth Hutchison. New Jersey: Rutgers UP, 2004. 294– 300. Print. Google Scholar

Siebers, Tobin. "Disability in Theory: From Social Constructionism to the New Realism of the Body." American Literary History 13.4 (2001): 737–54. JSTOR. Web. 4 Dec. 2008. Google Scholar

Smith, Sidonie, and Julie Watson. Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2001. Print. Google Scholar

Stanford Friedman, Susan. "Women's Autobiographical Selves: Theory and Practice." (1988). Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader. Ed. Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson. Madison: University of Wisconsin P, 1998. 72–83. Print. Google Scholar

Sweet Wong, Hertha D. "First-Person Plural: Subjectivity and Community in Native American Women's Autobiography." (1996). Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader. Ed. Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson. Madison: University of Wisconsin P, 1998. 168–82. Print. Google Scholar

If you have private access to this content, please log in with your username and password here

Details

Author details

Torrell, Margaret Rose