Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Phantasmatic Reconstructions: Visualizing Phantom Limbs in the Works of Alexa Wright and Frank Bidart

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2012), 6, (1), 69–84.

Abstract

The article investigates how artist Alexa Wright and poet Frank Bidart use their artistic mediums to challenge dominant discourses about the body that make abject the bodies and phantom limb experiences of amputees. Using Alexa Wright's portraitures of amputees as a point of entry for understanding Bidart and examining the phantom limb experience, the article first examines how Wright's digital art questions the assumption that the culturally ideal body is the desired body; instead, the subjects in Wright's portraits emphasize the desire for a body that reflects their experiences and mental perceptions. Building on this framework, the article then analyzes how, through the voice of an amputee in "The Arc, " Bidart uses mimicry to make a mockery of dominant medical and cultural discourses that discipline certain bodies and mandate ideas about what is a viable, desirable body. The contention is that Bidart's dramatic monologue and Wright's portraits show bodies discursively constructed and negotiated against the medical model of the body and the hegemony of the illusory, unattainable visual ideal.

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Author details

Irwin, Catherine