Although disability studies researchers have long recognized the interdependence of ability and disability as socially mediated categories, few studies have taken the next logical step of examining how ability is constructed and represented in literary texts. This article pursues that line of inquiry through an analysis of the representation of vision and its limitations in James Joyce’s Ulysses, arguing that the textual construction of ability arises through the myth of the diaphanous abled body—or the assumption that nondisabled experience occurs absent bodily interference—as it relates to an analogous formal process here named the sensorytextual screen. The author shows how presumptions of what constitutes an abled body inflect the (dis)abled realism of Joyce’s novel, which at once depicts and mocks ableist presumptions. Representations of blindness, sight, and low vision thus relate intimately with modernist experiments with description and literary point of view and do so at a very fundamental level.
Clear Indistinct Ideas: Disability, Vision, and the Diaphanous Body in Joyce’s Ulysses
Jeremy Colangelo is a lecturer at King ’s University College at the University of Western Ontario, where he finished his PhD in 2018. He is the author of Diaphanous Bodies: Ability, Disability, and Modernist Irish Literature (forthcoming) and the editor of Joyce Writing Disability (forthcoming). His other work has appeared in such journals as Modern Fiction Studies, JML, Modern Drama, and the James Joyce Quarterly.
Jeremy Colangelo; Clear Indistinct Ideas: Disability, Vision, and the Diaphanous Body in Joyce’s Ulysses. Genre 1 April 2020; 53 (1): 1–25. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-8210737
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