Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

"Nothing Feels as Real"

Teen Sick-Lit, Sadness, and the Condition of Adolescence

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2012), 6, (2), 175–191.

Abstract

This article examines the emergence of "teen sick-lit" in the 1980s, a genre of adolescent fiction that fused illness and romance narrative to reinforce the interdependent norms of able-bodiedness, heteronormativity, emotional management, and maturity among American youth. Spotlighting popular American young adult fiction, including Lurlene McDaniel's Dawn Rochelle series (1985-93) and Jean Ferris's Invincible Summer (1987), the article critiques teen sick-lit's ableist and sexist visions of disability and sexuality and attends to the ways in which these novels suggest transgressive crip possibilities for desiring disabled bodies and resisting ableist norms of gender, sexuality, and beauty. Finally, drawing novel links between disability studies and emergent affect theory, the article analyzes teen sick-lit as one understudied response to post-1968 liberal social movements and post-Fordist economic shifts toward service industries that commodified emotion.

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Aronson, Marc. Exploding the Myths: The Truth about Teenagers and Reading. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2001. Print. Exploding the Myths: The Truth about Teenagers and Reading Google Scholar

Bailin, Miriam. The Sickroom in Victorian Fiction: The Art of Being Ill. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007. Print. The Sickroom in Victorian Fiction: The Art of Being Ill Google Scholar

Berlant, Lauren. The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture. Durham: Duke UP, 2008. Print. The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture Google Scholar

Berlant, Lauren. Cruel Optimism. Durham: Duke UP, 2010. Print. Cruel Optimism Google Scholar

Blume, Judy. Deenie. 1973. New York: Delacorte P, 2010. Print. Deenie Google Scholar

Bourdieu, Pierre. The Logic of Practice. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1992. Print. The Logic of Practice Google Scholar

Brumberg, Joan Jacobs. The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls. New York: Vintage, 1998. Print. The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls Google Scholar

Clough, Patricia. The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social. Durham: Duke UP, 2007. Print. The Affective Turn: Theorizing the Social Google Scholar

Eccleshare, Julia. "Teenage Fiction: Realism, Romances, Contemporary Problem Novels." International Companion Encyclopedia of Children's Literature, Volume I. Ed. Peter Hunt. 2nd edn. London: Routledge, 2004. 387-96. Print. International Companion Encyclopedia of Children's Literature I 387 96 Google Scholar

Edelman, Lee. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive. Durham: Duke UP, 2004. Print. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive Google Scholar

Ehrenreich, Barbara. "Welcome to Cancerland." Harper's Magazine. November 2001. 43-53. Print. Welcome to Cancerland Harper's Magazine 43 53 Google Scholar

Elman, Julie Passanante. "After School Special Education: Rehabilitative Television, Teen Citizenship, and Able-Bodiedness." Television and New Media 11.4 (2010): 260-92. Print. After School Special Education: Rehabilitative Television, Teen Citizenship, and Able-Bodiedness Television and New Media 11 260 92 Google Scholar

Feinberg, Barbara. Welcome to the Lizard Motel: Children, Stories, and the Mystery of Making Things Up. Boston: Beacon, 2004. Print. Welcome to the Lizard Motel: Children, Stories, and the Mystery of Making Things Up Google Scholar

Ferris, Jean. Invincible Summer. New York: Farrar Strauss Giroux, 1987. Print. Invincible Summer Google Scholar

Frank, Arthur. The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, Ethics. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1997. Print. The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, Ethics Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. New York: Columbia UP, 1997. Print. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature Google Scholar

Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. 2nd edn. New Haven: Yale UP, 2000. Print. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination Google Scholar

Gould, Deborah. Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP's Fight against AIDS. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2009. Print. Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP's Fight against AIDS Google Scholar

Haller, Beth, and Corinne Kirchner, eds. "Special Issue: Disability Culture in Children's Literature." Disability Studies Quarterly 24.1 (2004). Web. 12 September 2008. Special Issue: Disability Culture in Children's Literature Disability Studies Quarterly 24 Google Scholar

Hochschild, Arlie Russell. The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling. 1983. Berkeley and Los Angeles: U of California P, 2003. Print. The Managed Heart: Commercialization of Human Feeling Google Scholar

Holmes, Martha Stoddard. Fictions of Affliction: Physical Disability in Victorian Culture. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2004. Print. Fictions of Affliction: Physical Disability in Victorian Culture Google Scholar

Holmes, Martha Stoddard. "Queering the Marriage Plot: Wilkie Collins's The Law and the Lady." Victorian Freaks: The Social Context of Freakery in the Nineteenth Century. Ed. Marlene Tromp. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 2008. 237-58. Print. Victorian Freaks: The Social Context of Freakery in the Nineteenth Century 237 58 Google Scholar

Hooper, Judith. "Beauty Tips for the Dead," Minding the Body: Women Writers on Body and Soul. Ed. Patricia Foster. New York: Anchor/Doubleday, 1994. 107-38. Print. Minding the Body: Women Writers on Body and Soul 107 38 Google Scholar

Keith, Lois. Take Up Thy Bed and Walk: Death, Disability, and Cure in Classic Fiction for Girls. New York: Routledge, 2001. Print. Take Up Thy Bed and Walk: Death, Disability, and Cure in Classic Fiction for Girls Google Scholar

Kidd, Kenneth. "Queer Theory's Child and Children's Literature Studies." PMLA 126.1 (2011): 182-88. Print. Queer Theory's Child and Children's Literature Studies PMLA 126 182 88 Google Scholar

Klages, Mary. Woeful Afflictions: Disability and Sentimentality in Victorian America. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1999. Print. Woeful Afflictions: Disability and Sentimentality in Victorian America Google Scholar

Kumbier, Alana. "Trauma Club: The Chronic Popularity of Illness Lit." Bitch (Winter 2005): 72-79. Print. Trauma Club: The Chronic Popularity of Illness Lit Bitch 72 79 Google Scholar

Lorde, Audre. The Cancer Journals. New York: Aunt Lute Books, 1980. Print. The Cancer Journals Google Scholar

Love, Heather. Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2007. Print. Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History Google Scholar

McDaniel, Lurlene. "I Want to Live." (1987). Dawn Rochelle: Four Novels. New York: Starfire, 2000. 131-252. Print. Dawn Rochelle: Four Novels 131 252 Google Scholar

McDaniel, Lurlene. "Lurlene McDaniel Official Website." WordPress. 2011. Web. September 12, 2008. Lurlene McDaniel Official Website WordPress Google Scholar

McDaniel, Lurlene. My Secret Boyfriend. (1988) Worthinton: Willowisp P, Inc. Print. My Secret Boyfriend Google Scholar

McDaniel, Lurlene. "No Time to Cry." (1993). Dawn Rochelle: Four Novels. New York: Starfire, 2000. 395-533. Print. Dawn Rochelle: Four Novels 395 533 Google Scholar

McDaniel, Lurlene. "Six Months to Live." (1985). Dawn Rochelle: Four Novels. New York: Starfire, 2000. 1-130. Print. Dawn Rochelle: Four Novels 1 130 Google Scholar

McDaniel, Lurlene. "So Much to Live For." (1991). Dawn Rochelle: Four Novels. New York: Starfire, 2000. 253-394. Print. Dawn Rochelle: Four Novels 253 394 Google Scholar

McRuer, Robert. Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability. New York: New York UP, 2006. Print. Crip Theory: Cultural Signs of Queerness and Disability Google Scholar

Mitchell, David T. and Sharon L. Snyder. Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2000. Print. Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse Google Scholar

Price Herndl, Diane. "Disease versus Disability: The Medical Humanities and Disability Studies." PMLA 120.2 (2005): 593-98. Print. Disease versus Disability: The Medical Humanities and Disability Studies PMLA 120 593 98 Google Scholar

Price Herndl, Diane. Invalid Women: Figuring Feminine Illness in American Fiction and Culture. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1993. Print. Invalid Women: Figuring Feminine Illness in American Fiction and Culture Google Scholar

Radway, Janice. Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature. 1984. Chapel Hill and London: U of North Carolina P, 1991. Print. Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature Google Scholar

Random House. "Lurlene McDaniel." RandomHouse. N.d. Web. 9 January 2008. Google Scholar

Rose, Jacqueline. The Case of Peter Pan, or The Impossibility of Children's Fiction. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P, 1993. Print. The Case of Peter Pan, or The Impossibility of Children's Fiction Google Scholar

Schmunk Murray, Gail. American Children's Literature and the Construction of Childhood. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998. Print. American Children's Literature and the Construction of Childhood Google Scholar

Sontag, Susan. Illness as Metaphor. New York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 1978. Print. Illness as Metaphor Google Scholar

Stiker, Henri Jacques. A History of Disability. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 2000. Print. A History of Disability Google Scholar

Voight, Cynthia. Izzy, Willy Nilly. New York: Fawcett Juniper, 1986. Print. Izzy, Willy Nilly Google Scholar

Wendell, Susan. The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability. New York: Routledge, 1996. Print. The Rejected Body: Feminist Philosophical Reflections on Disability Google Scholar

Whitfield, Jamie. "Missions of Mercy Inspire Lurlene McDaniel's Angelic Series." Bookpage. July 2000. Web. 30 November 2007. Missions of Mercy Inspire Lurlene McDaniel's Angelic Series Bookpage Google Scholar

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Elman, Julie