Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

Disability Haunting in American Poetics

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2007), 1, (1), 1–12.

Abstract

In medicine and rehabilitation, disability has been exclusively narrated as individual tragedy and deviance from bodily norms. As a result, humanities scholarship has only recently begun to understand disability as a foundational category of social experience, and a matter of symbolic investment. The essay examines the language of haunting used by Robert Pinsky in his analysis of American poetry as constitutive of a uniquely American memory. Poems featured in Pinsky's discussion–namely Abraham Lincoln's "My Childhood Home I See Again" and William Carlos Williams's "To Elsie"–are re-read as relying on unacknowledged representations of disability. The essay designates this spectral presence of disabled people's material circumstances in print and media as disability haunting. A disability studies approach to literary analysis can provide readers, teachers, and critics with the ability to concretize such haunting subject matter. Hence, the essay seeks to make surface a 'poetics' of disability in literary works that remain standard to required English classes in American universities and high schools, as well as to interpret poetics broadly as the matter of metaphor, trope and experimentation with storyline.

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Author details

Snyder, Sharon

Mitchell, David