Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

A Reflection on Inspiration: A Recuperative Call for Emotion in Disability Studies

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2011), 5, (2), 173–184.

Abstract

The article calls for a reconsideration of the term inspiration so that it might be recuperated as a valuable emotion within disability discourse. Inspirational narratives often carry the attendant baggage of pity and fear, suggesting that disability can and should automatically evoke sympathy or concern from the audience—concern that people with disabilities might be a social or economic burden, concern of becoming disabled themselves. Dichotomously, other inspirational narratives promote the idea of the "supercrip" who, against all odds, overcomes the burdens of disability in the face of pervasive adversity. In these narratives, inspiration rightly becomes an emotion unsettling to Disability Studies and the disability community. Yet certain disabilities, such as psychiatric and emotional disabilities (arguably underrepresented in Disability Studies), may benefit from inspirational narratives. After reflecting on some analyses of these contested emotions by disability scholars, the article offers a repositioning of the term inspiration in relation to scenarios of the personal and political.

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Clare, Eli. Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation. Cambridge, MA: South End P, 1999. Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation Google Scholar

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Fiedler, Leslie A. "Pity and Fear: Images of the Disabled in Literature and the Popular Arts." Salmagundi 57 (1982): 57–69. Pity and Fear: Images of the Disabled in Literature and the Popular Arts Salmagundi 57 57 69 Google Scholar

Frank, Arthur W. The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1995. The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics Google Scholar

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Foreword. Sounding Off: Theorizing Disability in Music. Ed. Neil Lerner and Joseph N. Straus. New York: Routledge, 2006. xiii–xv. Google Scholar

Gleeson, Brendan. Geographies of Disability. London: Routledge, 1999. Geographies of Disability Google Scholar

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Prendergast, Catherine. "And Now, a Necessarily Pathetic Response: A Response to Susan Schweik." American Literary History 20.1–2 (2008): 238–44. And Now, a Necessarily Pathetic Response: A Response to Susan Schweik American Literary History 20 238 44 Google Scholar

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Slater, Lauren. Prozac Diary. New York: Penguin, 1998. Prozac Diary Google Scholar

Slater, Lauren. Welcome to My Country: A Therapist's Memoir of Madness. New York: Anchor, 1997. Welcome to My Country: A Therapist's Memoir of Madness Google Scholar

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Details

Author details

Chrisman, Wendy