Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

The (Narrative) Prosthesis Re-Fitted

Finding New Support for Embodied and Imagined Differences in Contemporary Art

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2015), 9, (3), 247–264.

Abstract

This article undertakes analyses of the contemporary American artists Robert Gober and Cindy Sherman to argue that they use the tropes of the obscene, abject, and traumatic—as discussed by Hal Foster—to make literal and metaphorical reference to David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder’s narrative prosthesis and its “truth,” while simultaneously leaving out the lived experience of disability. Consideration is given to the works of artists Carmen Papalia and Mike Parr, who use complex embodiment as a new methodology to signify empowerment and agency over what we might previously have considered the obscene, abject, or traumatic. They transform traditional understandings of the “prosthetic” within the specific rhetoric of disability.

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Flood, Richard. “The Law of Indirections.” Robert Gober: Sculpture and Drawings. Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1999. Print. “The Law of Indirections.” Robert Gober: Sculpture and Drawings Google Scholar

Foster, Hal. “Obscene, Abject, Traumatic.” October 78. 4 (1996): 106–24. Print. “Obscene, Abject, Traumatic.” October 78 4 106 24 Google Scholar

Funk, Tiffany. “The Prosthetic Aesthetic: An Art of Anxious Extensions.” Web. 4 Jan. 2013. “The Prosthetic Aesthetic: An Art of Anxious Extensions.” Google Scholar

Hevey, David. “The Enfreakment of Photography.” The Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Lennard J. Davis. New York and London: Routledge. Third Edition, 2010. Print. “The Enfreakment of Photography.” The Disability Studies Reader Google Scholar

Iwakuma, Miho. “The Body as Embodiment: An Investigation of the Body by Merleau Ponty.” Disability/Postmodernity: Embodying Disability Theory. Ed. Marian Corker and Tom Shakespeare. London, New York: Continuum, 2002. Print. “The Body as Embodiment: An Investigation of the Body by Merleau Ponty.” Disability/Postmodernity: Embodying Disability Theory Google Scholar

Kristeva, Julie and Leon S. Roudiez. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. New York: Columbia UP, 1982. Print. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection Google Scholar

Kurzman, Steven L. “Presence and Prosthesis: A Response to Nelson and Wright.” Cultural Anthropology 16.3 (2001): 374–87. Print. “Presence and Prosthesis: A Response to Nelson and Wright.” Cultural Anthropology 16.3 374 87 Google Scholar

Miglietti, Francesca Alfano. Extreme Bodies: The Use and Abuse of the Body in Art. Milan, Italy: Skira Editore, 2003. Print. Extreme Bodies: The Use and Abuse of the Body in Art Google Scholar

Millett-Gallant, Ann. “Enabling the Image.” The Disabled Body in Contemporary Art. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2010. Print. “Enabling the Image.” The Disabled Body in Contemporary Art Google Scholar

Mitchell, David T. and Sharon L. Snyder. Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse. Ann Arbor: The U of Michigan P, 2000. Print. Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse Google Scholar

Nochlin, Linda. “The Body in Pieces: The Fragment as a Metaphor of Modernity.” The Twenty-Sixth Walter Neurath Memorial Lecture. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994. Print. “The Body in Pieces: The Fragment as a Metaphor of Modernity.” The Twenty-Sixth Walter Neurath Memorial Lecture Google Scholar

Ott, Katherine. “The Sum of Its Parts: An Introduction to Modern Histories of Prosthetics.” Artificial Parts, Practical Lives: Modern Histories of Prosthetics. New York, London: New York UP, 2002. Print. “The Sum of Its Parts: An Introduction to Modern Histories of Prosthetics.” Artificial Parts, Practical Lives: Modern Histories of Prosthetics Google Scholar

Papalia, Carmen. Artist Statement, 2012. Print. Artist Statement Google Scholar

Siebers, Tobin. Disability Aesthetics. Ann Arbor: The U of Michigan P, 2010. Print. Disability Aesthetics Google Scholar

Siebers, Tobin. “Disability and the Theory of Complex Embodiment – For Identity Politics in a New Register.” The Disability Studies Reader Third 3rd Edition, Ed. Lennard J. Davis. London, New York: Routledge, 2010. Print. “Disability and the Theory of Complex Embodiment – For Identity Politics in a New Register.” The Disability Studies Reader Third 3rd Edition Google Scholar

Sobchack, Vivian. “A Leg to Stand On: Prosthetics, Metaphor, and Materiality.” Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture. Berkeley: U of California P, 2004. Print. “A Leg to Stand On: Prosthetics, Metaphor, and Materiality.” Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture Google Scholar

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Cachia, Amanda