Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

"Every man his specialty": Beckett, Disability, and Dependence

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2007), 1, (2), 55–68.

Abstract

With the publication of recent work by Martha Nussbaum, Eva Kittay, Alasdair MacIntyre, and other theorists, disability scholarship has increasingly considered the status of dependent relations in the construction of disability. Social contractarian theories from Hume to Rawls presume an ideal of liberal justice based on the free, rational, individual, a category that excludes those who rely on care-givers, family members, and aides in the pursuit of independent living. As Kittay has said, dependency work is usually gendered as "women's work," seldom recognized as a component of disability identity, and is usually ill remunerated. The essay brings dependency into the foreground of disability studies by looking at one modernist author, Samuel Beckett, whose characters are often disabled but who rely on each other for solace and support. Beckett's plays, in particular, explore the "abject dependence" of individuals for whom ontological and theological props have been removed and who must negotiate the passing of time in order to, as Estragon says in Waiting for Godot, "create the illusion we exist."

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Author details

Davidson, Michael