Defiantly Deviant: Disability, Temporality & Medievalist Methodologies - Keynote at the Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference, 2019

Fig. 1: Untitled gif of three skeletons dancing, using detail of a bas-de-page MS scene of the Three Dead. Made for GIF IT UP 2016, by Erin Black, posted 18/10/16. Black text overlays gif, reading ‘Defiantly Deviant: Disability, Temporality & Medievalist Methodologies’ (added by Spencer-Hall). Skeletons from the ‘Smithfield Decretals’ ( Decretals o f Gregory IX with  glossa ordinaria ), southern France (probably Toulouse), c. 1300, with illuminations added in England (London), c. 1340 (BL Royal 10 E IV, f. 259r). Source:  GIF IT UP 2016 . ( CC-BY-SA )  The creator, Black,  describes the gif : ‘This GIF celebrates both #PageFrights and the #SkeletonWar with three skeletons dancing on a manuscript page. The image is an illumination from the bottom of a page (aka a bas-de-page) of the Smithfield Decretals. It’s one of a series of bas-de-pages depicting the story of The Three Living and the Three Dead, in which three kings are confronted by three of their dead ancestors and warned to remember the dead, lest they take life for granted. […]’

Fig. 1: Untitled gif of three skeletons dancing, using detail of a bas-de-page MS scene of the Three Dead. Made for GIF IT UP 2016, by Erin Black, posted 18/10/16. Black text overlays gif, reading ‘Defiantly Deviant: Disability, Temporality & Medievalist Methodologies’ (added by Spencer-Hall). Skeletons from the ‘Smithfield Decretals’ (Decretals of Gregory IX with glossa ordinaria), southern France (probably Toulouse), c. 1300, with illuminations added in England (London), c. 1340 (BL Royal 10 E IV, f. 259r). Source: GIF IT UP 2016. (CC-BY-SA)

The creator, Black, describes the gif: ‘This GIF celebrates both #PageFrights and the #SkeletonWar with three skeletons dancing on a manuscript page. The image is an illumination from the bottom of a page (aka a bas-de-page) of the Smithfield Decretals. It’s one of a series of bas-de-pages depicting the story of The Three Living and the Three Dead, in which three kings are confronted by three of their dead ancestors and warned to remember the dead, lest they take life for granted. […]’

On the 2nd of April in the year of our goddess(es) 2019, I felt the call. I had heard the call for a long time, years even. But I had not felt it, surging through the fibres of my being and my brain in a compulsive thrum. Until that portentous day, at 3 o’clock after my third cup of strong coffee. It was time. It was time I began my true calling, the journey for which I had prepared daily by scrolling through the internet and the Giphy gospels for hours on end. And so was born my first professional gif (Fig. 1), based on the fine work of Erin Black for GIF IT UP 2016, now burnished with my paper title. Not yet content, I toiled onwards, pouring sweat and blood into a dazzling relic, a timeless work of art: my first professional Blingee (Fig. 2).

The inspiration for the outpouring of my creative spirit was the Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference, taking place 5-6 April 2019 at Kellogg College. The conference’s theme is deviance, and I have the profound privilege of giving a keynote there. In my talk, “Defiantly Deviant: Disability, Temporality & Medievalist Methodologies”, I attending to the ways in which disability has been conceptualized as deviance, arguing for, in effect, a kind of defiant - weaponized - deviance as a form of critical cripistemology. I examine temporal deviance in particular: the ways in which crip lives take place in crip time(s), alongside the ways in which medievalist research can and does de-center “linear” (i.e. telelogical) history by blurring bounds between the past, the present, and the future. Temporal deviance becomes an embodied methodology, a means to re-instate the marginalized and silenced to the historical record, to forge crip-chronic communities across time.

With my focus on crip time and/as methodology, the keynote covers similar ground to recent other papers I’ve given, so see here if you’d like details of the forthcoming publications that form the basis of my keynote. I’ve embedded my slides below, which convey the thrust of my arguments. As much as I tried - and believe me, I tried - I couldn’t feasibly integrate the Blingee into my deck. But never fear, I have embedded it here - an orphaned artistic jewel - as a treasure for your eyes only. You’re welcome.

Fig. 2: A  Blingee  of Fig. 1, with dazzling pink animated starbursts overlaying the image. In this version, the skeletons are static. Source: my deepest creative urges.

Fig. 2: A Blingee of Fig. 1, with dazzling pink animated starbursts overlaying the image. In this version, the skeletons are static. Source: my deepest creative urges.

'It's About Time': Ableism in the Academy - Seminar at the Swansea University Centre for Research into Gender, Culture and Society

By the time this is posted - all hail the glory that is the auto-scheduling tool - I will be ensconced on a train, whizzing my way to Swansea, Wales. Hello, future me! This minor-league time travel is in honour of an exceptionally kind invitation, made by an exceptionally kind academic Dr Roberta Magnani, the Director of Swansea University’s Centre for Research into Gender, Culture and Society (GENCAS). I will be - I currently am? - giving a seminar as part of the Centre’s series on intersectionality, speaking about ableism in the Academy.

All my temporal dilly-dallying with this post is eminently apt, it turns out, because my paper is all about time , or rather times plural - academic time, disability time, crip time - and temporal slippage, pasts and presents and futures all colliding. Check out my abstract for the full(er) story:

It’s about time we talked about disability in the Academy. Many, if not most, academics do not disclose their condition(s) for well-grounded fear of discrimination. Neoliberal rhetoric about “productivity” – we must always produce more, we must always be seen to be producing more – is fundamentally ableist. Ever more nominally non-disabled scholars are disabled by the “hyper-work” prescribed by the academic regime. The academic timepiece stops for no-body. And yet, those of us living with disability, we watch – we must watch – different clocks: those which show ‘crip’ time – episodic, non-linear, thickened. It is a radically different temporal orientation than hetero-patriarchal linear time. Radical is the key word here. The logic of crip time offers us a new methodology for medievalist work: a practice of empathetic and politically urgent trans-historical engagement with our sources. What’s more, recognition of time, or manipulation thereof, as a central weapon in the Academy’s dysfunctional arsenal allows for the creation of a broader collective for resistance. If the Academy disables, then let us crip it right back – decentering the neoliberalized normate in our scholarship, in our pedagogy and in our professional lives.

If you’d like to read my paper, then you’ll find most - though not all - of the material in two chapters which should be published in the near-ish future:

  • ‘Chronic Pain and Illness: Reinstating Crip-Chronic Histories to Forge Affirmative Disability Futures’, in A Cultural History of Disability in the Middle Ages, ed. by Jonathan Hsy, Joshua Eyler, and Tory Pearman (London, UK: Bloomsbury Press, forthcoming 2019);

  • ‘Stopping the Clock(s): Precarious Times in the Academy’, in Theorising Ableism in Academia, ed. by Nicole Brown and Jennifer Leigh (London, UK: University College London Press, forthcoming 2019/2020).

For a flavour of the talk itself, flick through the slides posted below at your leisure. Forget the content, if you like clocks (and watches and venerable timepieces), you will love this deck. And just below that, you can (now) scroll through tweets posted about the talk by myself, and attendees. Check out @RobertaDMagnani’s thread in particular for a summary of my key points.

Edited 19/03/19 to embed the Wakelet and relevant text.

CfP: #disIMC Round Table on Accessibility in HE at International Medieval Congress, Leeds (UK), 2018

Round Table: "#disimc: Current Challenges to Accessibility and Ways Forward"

ConferenceInternational Medieval Congress, Leeds (UK), 2-5 July 2018

 

At the IMC 2017, Medievalists with Disabilities hosted its first event. #disimc was a bring your own lunch affair, slotted into the timetable at the last minute. It was a great success, and marked the beginning of the Medievalists with Disabilities (#dismed) network. We are now moving into more official outlets for discussion, and are putting together a round table for IMC 2018. 

We invite abstracts for 5 minute talks as part of a round table discussion about accessibility in Higher Education and ways that we can address issues. We take the term disabilities in the broadest possible sense, incorporating invisible and visible conditions, chronic illness and mental health to name but a few. Papers might address issues individuals have overcome in Higher Education, discuss what it is like to be in HE with a disability/chronic condition, or pinpoint an issue that needs addressing. 


Please send an abstract of no more than 150 words outlining your talk to alexralee12 [at] gmail.com by August 20th.

Medievalists with Disabilities Meet-up, Leeds IMC 2017 #disIMC

Please feel free to share this #disIMC poster!

Please feel free to share this #disIMC poster!

Medievalists with Disabilities is an informal gathering for disabled students, ECRs, academics, researchers and allies at Leeds International Medieval Congress 2017.

Bring your lunch and come and meet other medievalists with disabilities, or support your disabled colleagues. This gathering is completely informal, and we hope it will be the start of a supportive community.

Follow the Twitter hashtag #disIMC for news of the event, and join us digitally for the meet-up by tagging your tweets with #disIMC.

All are very welcome to attend, 12:45-14:15 on Wednesday 5th July, St George Room, University House. The St George Room is accessible via lift from either Refectory Foyer or via University House.

If you have any queries, especially about accessibility requirements, please contact Alicia Spencer-Hall (Twitter /  aspencerhall [at] gmail.com) or Alex Lee (Twitter / alexralee12 [at] gmail.com). 

We look forward to meeting people, online or in person!

Storify: 'Different Bodies: (Self)-Representation, Disability, and the Media' Conference (#differentbodies)

Last Friday, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the 'Different Bodies: (Self)-Representation, Disability, and the Media' conference, organised by Jacob Johanssen and Diana Garrisi at the University of Westminster.  (For the full line-up of the day, see here.) The quality of the papers was astoundingly high, offering a glimpse of the array of engaged, important work happening right now in disability-media studies. I channeled my ever escalating excitement into live-tweeting as much of the day as possible, so that all interested parties could get a flavour of the discussions taking place. In the Storify below, I've collected the live-tweets from all in attendance using the #differentbodies hashtag. Enjoy! 

wakeletPowered by Wakelet

wakelet Powered by Wakelet

Edited 19/12/17: Due to the impending demise of Storify, I've switched out the Storified content to a Wakelet collection.

CfP: Sponsored Panel on Disability & Sanctity at International Medieval Congress, Leeds (UK), 2018

With apologies for cross-posting! Please feel free to share this CfP with all relevant parties.

 

Panel title: "Sanctifying the Crip, Cripping the Sacred: Disability, Holiness, and Non-Normative Bodies"

Sponsored by: Hagiography Society

Conference: International Medieval Congress, Leeds (UK), 2-5 July 2018

 

In her 2006 monograph Disability in Medieval Europe, Irina Metzler conducted the first in-depth analyses of medieval miracle narratives in the context of disability studies. This ground-breaking work demonstrated the ways in which such an approach productively expands – and complicates – out understanding of medieval impairment and medieval hagiography alike. This panel seeks to harness the methodological vigour of Metzler’s intervention, and move the discussion forward to reap the benefits of the efflorescence in medieval disability studies that has taken place since 2006. What can frameworks from disability studies add to studies of medieval holiness, and vice versa? What happens when we sanctify the crip, and crip the sacred?

gwen - 'St. Roch's, various plaster feet'. Via  Flickr . License:  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 .  Plaster feet hung on a wall, left as devotional offerings by supplicants in search of miraculous cures, in the St Roch (d. 1327) chapel and shrine in New Orleans (Louisiana, USA).

gwen - 'St. Roch's, various plaster feet'. Via Flickr. License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Plaster feet hung on a wall, left as devotional offerings by supplicants in search of miraculous cures, in the St Roch (d. 1327) chapel and shrine in New Orleans (Louisiana, USA).

A vast amount of our knowledge of the experience of impairment in the Middle Ages comes from religious works. An important manifestation of a presumptive saint’s holiness was their capacity to perform mystically curative healings, to return their devotees to an able-bodied state. But medieval saints did not just tend to those with impairment. Some saints were themselves explicitly physically impaired, either permanently or temporarily. Saints’ ascetic self-mortification could also lead to impairment. In all instances, the saint’s body is divergent to the able-bodied norm of those around them, the non-saintly. It operates as a vector of the divine in miraculous healing of others; a receptacle of the divine in their ability to withstand extreme ascetic degradation.

What is at stake if we consider the medieval saint’s body as impaired, disabled, emphatically non-able-bodied?

 

 

If you’re interested in speaking on this panel, please submit an abstract of roughly 250-300 words, and a brief bio to the panel organiser, Alicia Spencer-Hall (a.spencer-hall [at] ucl.ac.uk), by 25 August 2017. Please also stipulate your audio-visual requirements in your submission (e.g. projector, speakers, and so forth).

 

N.B. Conference regulations stipulate that speakers may only present on one panel each year at Leeds. As such, we cannot consider papers from individuals who have already submitted abstract proposals to other sessions at the conference.

 

[Updated 08/08/17 to reflect extended deadline for submission.]

Internet Bibliography #4

Frankly, I don't have much to report this week. Or, I have lots to report and not the energy to do the reporting. You know those times of your life when you are so busy busy busy, but at the end of the day you can't really remember what's gone on, or where you are? Yeah, hello from that land. Land, I dub thee "Frenzilandia". Apparently, this is the (parallel universe) land where I have not foresworn kale or green smoothies. That feels like a confession I should have saved for an actual, proper, literal confessional booth. Anyway, think of me in the rolling green-smoothie-filled lands of Frenzilandia whilst you pore over the topnotch internet artefacts below. Enjoy!

- On medieval peen:

From Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 25526. Via Lucy Allen's  blog post .

From Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Français 25526. Via Lucy Allen's blog post.

o   Just to be clear, by “peen”, yes, I do mean “penis”. Yes, medieval people had genitals too! Thanks to the glory of Twitter, and medievalist Gillian Kenny, I can present to you the medieval, wearable and whimsical version of modern-day dick pics. How about a fourteenth or fifteenth-century lead badge showing three humanoid phalluses carrying a vulva on a litter? Or a mid-fourteenth-century lead badge featuring a peen-on-legs bowing to a noble vulva-on-legs? Or – hold the phone! – an illustration of a fierce nun HARVESTING PEEN from a PEEN TREE, from a fourteenth-century French manuscript? Yup, that's the image above. Fabulous. If you fancy learning a bit more about the image, its female illustrator and the manuscript its in, check out a blog post by Lucy Allen.

 

- On images (not just of cute animals, promise):

o   On a particularly stressful day, I vented my tormented spleen to my dearest friend, a sterling and stalwart companion who I’ll call Mo. As ever, she was brilliant, providing sympathetic listening (i.e .agreeing wholeheartedly with my nebulous rant), a pep talk, and a link to some soothing and cute internet animals. Everybody needs a Mo on their speed dial. I’m passing on the love by sharing a link to Sheldon the Tiny Dinosaur, a web-comic about a tiny dinosaur who thinks he’s a turtle. Joy!

o   In the Guardian, Jess Cartner-Morley writes about the evolution of the Pirelli calendar since its beginning in 1964. The pin-up calendar, packed full of women half-naked to promote tyres (at least in theory), – has become a lauded artistic artefact, attracting top-flight models and photographers. Cartner-Morley sketches out the power dynamics (and negotiations) between ostensibly down-market low-class brand (Pirelli make tyres, after all) and goddesses of the runway, noting that:

Pirelli’s triumph is a masterclass in image management, one that leverages basic instincts in a sophisticated marketplace. Its power lies in the fact that being acknowledged as sexually attractive is a valuable asset to women in the public eye, whereas being seen as sexually available is demeaning. So the deal Pirelli strikes with photographers and models is that they get to be sexy, and Pirelli gets to be classy. 

. 5.19 tue "Sandbag" . 「今日はボクシングの日だジョー!」 .

A photo posted by Tatsuya Tanaka (@tanaka_tatsuya) on

o   Since 2011, Japanese artist-photographer Tatsuya Tanaka has posted a picture of miniature tableaux daily, featuring tiny human figures posed with banal household objects. (You can buy Tanaka’s coffee table book here.) The pictures are clean, witty, and intelligent – making the viewer rethink their relationship to the quotidian objects pictured, and recontextualise the objects themselves, teasing out alternate values for this regular stuff we all take for granted as “not-art”. I adore Tanaka’s mission statement, on the “About” page:

Everyone must have had similar thoughts at least once.
Broccoli and parsley might sometimes look like a forest, or the tree leaves floating on the surface of the water might sometimes look like little boats. Everyday occurrences seen from a pygmy’s perspective can bring us lots of fun thoughts.
I wanted to take this way of thinking and express it through photographs, so I started to put together a “MINIATURE CALENDAR” These photographs primarily depict diorama-style figures surrounded by daily necessaries.
Just like a standard daily calendar, the photos are updated daily on my website and SNS page, earning it the name of “MINIATURE CALENDAR”
It would be great if you could use it to add a little enjoyment to your everyday life.

- On women kicking ass and/or navigating life:

Jess Zimmerman postit.jpg

o   I shared a piece by Jess Zimmerman in my last Internet Bibliography, and am happy to have another incandescent article to share this time around. On Hazlitt, Zimmerman details her decision to leave her husband in 2012. It is - as we have come to expect from Zimmerman - an elegant, insightful and incisive piece, a meditation about what it is to be a woman in our society as much as it is about one specific woman’s hard and necessary choices. She writes:

It felt inexplicable. Sometimes I called it “my early midlife crisis.” Other times I called it “my nervous breakdown,” but in a tone that made it clear I was joking even though I also wasn’t. I often thought of those fungi that infest ants, take over their bodies, and make them march from the nest to wherever the fungus wants to go. Zombie ants.
But it wasn’t really inexplicable. It was, in fact, fairly mundane. What had happened was this: I realized that, like many women, I had made all the  decisions of my life on someone else’s behalf. I knew how to figure out other people’s expectations, and how to try to dodge their disappointment, and how to stay out of the way and not nag and not need things. I didn’t know what I actually wanted, at all.

In small, tidy caps, I’ve scrawled out my favourite line on a purple post-it put it up on  my wall (see the picture that above): ‘…nobody tells you the phoenix is born as a tender, featherless baby bird.’ Something to keep in mind when we go about this terrifying business of life.

o   Over at Metafilter, user dublin asks what she – as an established female engineer – should say to new female engineering students at university. Mefites, as ever, chime in with an array of useful content, and share some personal stories about navigating a traditionally male field. Useful and engaging resource for all female academics and all of us who interact with students.

o   In New York Magazine, Kerry Howley profiles female big-game hunter Rebecca Francis, shamed on Twitter by Ricky Gervais for happily posing with her latest kill, a magnificent giraffe. The story was published – somewhat unfortunately – shortly before reports emerged that American hunter-dentist Walter Palmer had shot and killed beloved Zimbabwean lion Cecil. This scheduling near-miss, however, doesn’t detract from the verve of the article, which teases out the various discomforts people have with Francis, the ways in which she herself views hunting, and the potential dichotomy of Francis’ approach to femininity. As an important bonus, read a series of tweets by Ijeoma Oluo unpacking the horrific absurdity of mass mourning for Cecil, swift justice planned for his killer compared to apathy and nonchalance in response to American people of colour. For example:

o   This month, Captain Kristen Griest and first lieutenant Shaye Have have become the first female army rangers in US military history. The testing to become a ranger is beyond brutal: Griest and Have deserve the highest respect, irrelevant of gender, for attaining ranger status. Nick Palmisciano – a West Point grad who went through Ranger School himself – presents his response to the Grist and Have’s achievement. It’s an interesting viewpoint into the way in which negative/misogynist views can and do shift when an individual is exposed to the reality of women in their (working) life. Whilst Palmisciano initially considered female soldiers weaker, less than their male counterparts at West Point, he quickly discovered that this is just not the case. Now, he trumpets his pride for the first female rangers, and concedes that they are, quite simply, tougher than him.

o   I am so jealous of Lacey Donohue. She had a killer idea for a reflective article for Jezebel: reviewing the story of her 20s life through the prism of Amazon purchases. Fantastic idea, really brilliant. Sigh. Anyway, Donohue remarks:

"Meet Danbo!" by Sally Crossthwaite. Via  Flickr

"Meet Danbo!" by Sally Crossthwaite. Via Flickr

Our Amazon order histories are not versions of ourselves we share often, but they offer a rare glimpse into our gloriously messy and occasionally embarrassing life stories. In these orders, it’s easy to track life’s twists and turns: presents sent to names long deleted from our phones, boxes shipped to houses we’ll never see again, books sent to friends who have since passed away. A glance at all our purchases—every single one—tells a far more compelling story than any Facebook feed ever could.

I’m compelled to wander through my own Amazon order history, and see what it throws up about the past iterations of me. I suggest you do the same, so we can swap notes over a cheeky daiquiri (straight up, no ice).


- On trigger warnings:

o   In response to a series of articles by Kate Nonesuch discussing the use of trigger warnings in classrooms (1, 2), Mefite conspire offers an excellent, insightful piece of critique. They elucidate the misogyny inherent so frequently in push-back against trigger warnings, and analyse the rejection of such warnings more generally. For example:

One thing I've observed about the development of trigger warnings in the mainstream consciousness, is how much of it is wrapped up in misogyny and rape culture. Historically, the push for trigger warnings really originated with war veterans experiencing PTSD. As someone who frequently consults on accessibility, when I introduce trigger warnings in this context to people, no one really has any real objections to warning people that there might be gunshots or war scenes or blood - because hey, nationalism, we need to respect the folks who served our country. But veterans are not the only people who suffer from PTSD - the other really big demographic is women who have experienced rape or domestic violence. Yet, when we shift the dialogue from veterans to women, somehow trigger warnings become much more controversial.


- On disability issues:

"Portrait of a young boy holding a walking stick/cane (undated)" from pellethepoet. Via  Flickr . I searched Flickr for "fashion walking stick" and this was the second result. Hahahahahaaaa

"Portrait of a young boy holding a walking stick/cane (undated)" from pellethepoet. Via Flickr. I searched Flickr for "fashion walking stick" and this was the second result. Hahahahahaaaa

o   Liz Jackson blogs at The Girl with the Purple Cane about her life as a cane-user, designing for disability with fashionable and functional styles, and experiences from her life. I whole-heartedly support her campaign to make US retailer J. Crew sell a fashionable cane in their stores, thereby destigmatising mobility devices in the public imagination and providing those who use canes with more decent, fun, stylish choices. I’m working through her archive, but my favourite post of hers, so far, is a breakdown of the real phenomenon of “Post-Traumatic Growth” – the positive (yes, really) consequence that can flow from traumatic life experiences.

o   As a sort of counterpoint, over on This Body is Not an Apology, Cara Liebowitz explains – with wit and verve – the massive problem of “inspiration porn” for those with disabilities. In essence, “inspiration porn” objectifies individuals with disabilities – they are viewed solely as a means for inspiring those without disabilities, who often coo and oooh over memes and images of the disabled “beating the odds”. Ick. Read Liebowitz’s piece and act accordingly please people.

CfP: “Pre-modern Disabilities: Ambiguous Bodies, Texts, and Meanings” - Panel at SFS 2016

Panel title: “Pre-modern Disabilities: Ambiguous Bodies, Texts, and Meanings”

ConferenceSociety for French Studies 57th Annual Conference, University of Glasgow, 27-29 June 2016

Organiser: Alicia Spencer-Hall, French Dept., Queen Mary, University of London

In the last decade or so, pre-modern disability studies has emerged as a productive and important field of enquiry for scholars from a host of disciplines, including literary studies, history and sociology. The fallacy of any monolithic form of disability has been incisively critiqued by academics unpacking the specific historical context(s) of pre-modern narratives which feature disabled bodies. This represents a welcome dismantling of a paradigm of disability which continues to influence discussions of modern disability, whether these discussions take place in the academy or in the mass media and public consciousness. 

Illustration of medieval sign language, from Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 1449, 118v. Via  @KarlSteel  on  Twitter

Illustration of medieval sign language, from Vatican, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. lat. 1449, 118v. Via @KarlSteel on Twitter

The meaning accorded to being disabled by dominant society, and by the individuals living with disabilities themselves, is not fixed. Rather, what a given impairment “says about” a subject shifts according to multiple factors: gender, ethnicity, socio-cultural situation, historical moment and so on. Narratives showing disabled bodies, the attitudes of others to such marked bodies, and the disabled subject’s own intellectual and affective stance to his/her body, are not inert or solely reflective of “real life”. Rather, such narratives work to shape identities of those to which they speak, giving the disabled and non-disabled alike ways in which they might formulate a response to impairment in their lives. 

Impairment demands a response, as disability demonstrates the precariousness of “whole” or “normal(ised)” bodies. The non-disabled must thus take a stance in relation to the destabilising potentiality that the impaired body represents to abled society and culture. Often times, though certainly not always, responses fall between othering of the disabled body, enacting distance, or a fetishisation of the disabled body, a closeness which titillates because it is transgressive.  Reactions to disability are ambiguous just as much as disability itself represents an ambiguous state, defined by a host of socio-cultural, ideological, and historical factors. 

Disabled knight, from  Arthurian Romances , New Haven (CT), Beinecke MS 229 (ca. 1275-1300). Via  @DamienKempf  on  Twitter

Disabled knight, from Arthurian Romances, New Haven (CT), Beinecke MS 229 (ca. 1275-1300). Via @DamienKempf on Twitter

This panel brings methodological and theoretical approaches from pre-modern disability scholarship into the French context. “French”, in this case, refers to both geographical area (i.e. France as a region) and linguistic identity (i.e. francophone texts produced outside of France). How do French pre-modern texts deal with disability? Can we discern a specific approach to disability used by French authors, or in francophone texts? What kinds of meanings are given to disabled bodies? What kind of language is used to describe disabled bodies, and how does this language mould reader responses? What kind of narratives are offered to the disabled, and why? 

Relevant topics for this session include:
•    Differences between pre-modern and contemporary understanding of disabilities
•    Linguistic choices for denoting disabilities, and the ways in which such choices shape readers’ attitudes, in both modern and pre-modern periods
•    Reactions of readers to disabled characters in narratives, and reactions of those around a disabled character in the text
•    Social constructions of disability and their contexts, including permutations relating to specific locales, politics, ideologies
•    Differences between interpretations of disabilities in religious (e.g. saints) and more secular (e.g. wounded knights) frameworks
•    Differences in depictions of invisible and visible impairments
•    The ways in which French pre-modern texts can contribute to developing the field of pre-modern disability studies

 

If you’re interested in speaking on this panel, please submit an abstract of roughly 250-300 words and a brief bio, containing your postal address. Deadline for submissions: 1 September 2015. Please email your abstract and bio to the panel organiser, Alicia Spencer-Hall (a.spencer-hall [at] qmul.ac.uk).

Internet Bibliography #2

This week, I’ve mostly been enjoying the delights of Cardiff at the SFS annual conference. Much coffee, bara brith, and stimulating Frenchy chat. Also, the HEAT, which has felt like a thousand suns’ worth of irritation thrown strategically at our fair isles. The picks below have helped to distract me from melting into a puddle and/or violently calcifying into a pile of caffeine. Enjoy!

 

-          On women, representation and film:

o   The Dissolve team spell out the 50 most daring movie roles for women since Ripley of Alien fame. I’m vaguely annoyed that the need to have such a list exists – can’t women just have interesting movie roles as standard now, please? In any case, I like the bite-size chunks of comments that anchor each entry, and there’s not an entry that made me choke on my toast or anything. Feels a bit like the beginning sketches of a decent film/gender syllabus…

"Chola" by Koala MeatPie. Via  Flickr .

"Chola" by Koala MeatPie. Via Flickr.

-          On appropriation:

o   Obviously, I have binge watched Orange is the New Black’s season 3. If you haven’t seen it, hold all your calls and go and watch it now. NOW. This season, I’ve been particularly enamoured of Flaca and Maritza’s killer eyeliner. At some point, somebody mentioned “chola style”, and I had to look it up. “Chola” refers to a highly specific Mexican-American form of female representation, of which one part may be the kind of eyeliner Flaca and Maritza rock. So, I’ve been thinking about issues of appropriation in this context, particularly after reading Barbara Calderón-Douglass’s recent piece for Vice, The Folk Feminist Struggle Behind the Chola Fashion Trend; Phillip Picardi’s comments on Givenchy’s autumn 2015 “chola Victorian” runway show; and a personal response to “cholafication” on the Cultural Appropriation on Tumblr site.


-          On history:

o   @AfAmHistFail anonymously chronicles the things tourists say when touring the historic plantation that she works on. Nicole Cliffe’s interview with @AfAmHistFail for The Toast is painfully eye-opening as to how far we still have to go to achieve racial equality, and the necessity of quality history teaching to show the horrors perpetrated in the past that shape everyday experiences for large swathes of the population.

"Le Mundaneum à Mons (Belgique) " by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra. Via  Flickr .

"Le Mundaneum à Mons (Belgique) " by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra. Via Flickr.

o   It turns out, Belgium invented the (paper only) internet in 1895 in their facility Mundaneum in Mons. (With this, TinTin and Lambic beer, why don’t the Belgians rule the world?) French-language Nouvel Obs has a fascinating interview with one of Mundaneum’s directors, which unpacks the history of the place and the ovewhelming obsession of its two founders. Plus some great pictures and drawings relating to the place’s history.

 

-          On academic matters:

o   Peter Dayan gave a great plenary lecture at this year’s SFS discussing the role of creativity in modern language studies. He cited persuasively from Stephen Benson and Clare Connors’ (eds.) 2014 volume Creative Criticism: An Anthology and Guide, showing that creative writing is a part and parcel of our working lives. I’ve wishlisted the book myself, and am looking forward to getting my hot little hands on it.

o   Relatedly, UCL has a “Creative Critical Writing” PhD pathway which directly targets the kind of self-consciously innovative academic work that is possible if we accept that we have always been “creatives” all along.

o   Rice University’s Joshua Eyler has written a breath-taking piece, “The Grief of Pain”, which interweaves a meditation on the deeper resonances of his teaching and a reflection on the sorrow of chronic illness, the joy of boundless love for another. I’m really struck by its blend of intellectual and emotional honesty, leaving me inspired and moved. Eyler is a founder member of the Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages, and edited a brilliant book on medieval disability, published in 2010.

"The Gift of Pain" by wackystuff. Via  Flickr .

"The Gift of Pain" by wackystuff. Via Flickr.