This essay considers the role of literature in helping us navigate entrenched social conflicts that do not find resolution in simple notions of resistance. It examines the depiction of disability in one contemporary text as a means of considering the broader capacity of politically engaged literature and literary criticism to remediate (to rectify, to correct inequities) the circumstances that produce loss. The argument unfolds in two parts. The first examines the relationship of literature to two meanings of to remediate: 1) to solve problems; and 2) to cure. Engaging with disability studies and its critique of privileging the cure, this portion of the essay examines the potential of literature to help us think about political engagement in the absence of organized social movements. The second part of the essay analyzes Peruvian writer Daniel Alarcón's 2007 novel Lost City Radio, which depicts the demise of the Marxist resistance movements active throughout Latin America during the twentieth century. This novel highlights diverse meanings of the word remediation by addressing the relationship between literary and non-literary media, interrogating post-conflict remediation efforts, and challenging the impulse to cure non-normative bodies. My reading of this novel suggests that we might understand narrative literature as a site where we become more critical readers of our world. In this way, we might come to re-evaluate our most devastating political losses — such as the apparent end of revolutionary resistance movements — so that we can continue to act in their aftermath. The essay does not relinquish the possibility of political commitment in an uncertain political moment but makes a claim for the value of reading well in order to adjudicate among the conflicting and competing narratives that make up our contemporary social world. It suggests that literature's most important remedial function lies in the kind of interpretive work it forces its readers to perform. This interpretive work can lead us to act politically even after enduring political loss.
Julie Avril Minich; Disability, Losers, and Narrative Remediation. Comparative Literature 1 March 2014; 66 (1): 35–42. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00104124-2414914
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