DRF News, Events and Conferences

Disability and European Literature Event Announced

The following event has been added to the Other Events section.

Event: Centre for Culture & Disability Studies (CCDS) Research Forum *FREE!*

Date: 23rd March 2011 ~ 2.15pm – 3.45pm

Venue: Eden 109, Liverpool Hope University, UK. 

Brief Description:  

  • From Impairment to Empowerment: Mapping Disability onto European Literature ~ Dr. Pauline Eyre (Independent Scholar)

A cultural model of disability calls for the insertion of representations of disability from all manner of sources. Yet the predominantly Anglophone world of Disability Studies has so far had little engagement with the literature and culture of Europe, where English is not the first language. Dr. Pauline Eyre investigates a novel written in German by a Czech writer, Libuše Moníková’s Pavane for a Dead Infanta (1983), and argues that its exploration of life for someone who uses a wheelchair is of great importance to disability scholars.

Thus far, Moníková’s representation of disabled life has been understood by academics in the field of German Studies as a metaphor for the protagonist’s sense of alienation. Only once has the text been examined through a Disability Studies lens, when it was found to be reductive. Dr. Eyre argues that disability scholars must move beyond an assumption that when disability serves a secondary metaphorical function, then it ipso facto fails to represent the materiality of disabled people’s lives. In contrast, Pavane is read here as a vibrant, phenomenological representation of disabled existence.  Indeed, the entire text is understood as the transliteration of a painting, Velázquez’s Las Meninas, which Moníková chose as the frontispiece to the first edition. 

Thus, in the same way that Velázquez’s painting portrays a disabled woman with tender accuracy, subverting conventions about disabled people’s place in representation, so Moníková turns the literary spotlight on someone who uses a wheelchair, systematically yet sympathetically exposing the dynamics of disabled experience: Moníková scrutinizes cultural attitudes to disabled people, probing the relationship between impairment and disability and challenging the opposition of normality and disability.  Indeed, so subversive is Moníková’s representation of disabled subjectivity that ultimately she unfixes altogether the meaning attached to the term disability.

Dr. Pauline Eyre recently gained her Ph.D. at the University of Manchester. Entitled Permission to Speak, it explores the relative merits of autobiography and fiction as a means of both representing disability and challenging prejudice. Her current research interests include disability in TV comedy; the effect of genre on understandings of disability; feminist approaches to disability and ageing, with particular reference to the work of Simone de Beauvoir; and literary and film representations of ageing. She has published work on German perspectives on disability theory and has work forthcoming in an edited book on German life-writing in the twentieth century and in the Edinburgh German Yearbook devoted to disability (2010). She has also written for the forthcoming general issue of Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies.

For further information, please contact: Dr. David Bolt: boltd@hope.ac.uk

A reminder that the next DRF seminar will be held on Tuesday 15th February 2011 (1pm-3pm) in Room 10111 (First Floor) Arundel Building, Charles Street, City Campus, Sheffield Hallam University, S1 1WB – more info here.

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