Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Reading Walter Benjamin with a Disability Lens

The Storyteller and The Mummerehlen

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2021), 15, (1), 93–108.


The article reads Walter Benjamin against the grain to find Enlightenment and post Enlightenment constructions of disability within his texts. Benjamin’s keen criticism of bourgeois humanism and its attendants, capital, progress narratives, individualism, and hierarchies can be seen most clearly through an examination of the strange creatures who inhabit the borders of his thought. The argument is that positioning these as figures of disability sheds further light on Benjamin’s ethical and political concerns after World War I. Primarily focusing on the mute figures that appear in The Mummerehlen and The Storyteller: Reflections on the Work of Nikolai Leskóv, the article puts these two texts in dialogue with one another to argue that Benjamin saw a radical disruptiveness in non-normative and not-quite-human corporeality.

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Author details

Maddox, Emily Violet