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CFP: Special Issue – Disability and Disease in the Novel

October 1

Call for Papers for a Special Issue of Studies in the Novel: Disability and Disease in the Novel

Editors: Dr. Lydia R. Cooper (University of Seattle) and Dr. Matthew L. Reznicek (University of Minnesota)

In this Special Issue, we are looking for scholars engaged with the question of how the novel returns us to the human in precarious embodiment–in disease and disability. The form of the novel, with its heteroglossia, its democratizing impulses, its modes of psychological representation, has long been associated with representation of populations, in the singular and collective. Not surprisingly, historically and in the present, bodily otherness–especially when that otherness is due to disease or disability–troubles notions of belonging and community. As Judith Butler reminds us, in terms of the ethics of cohabitation, the body itself is framed as being potentially undone by alternative embodiments of disease and disability–from the hunger of Fantine in Les Miserables to the wartime injuries of Persuasion, from the embodied grief of Beloved to the body as bioweapon in American War. In contradistinction to the image of the body undone by these conditions, critical disability studies and care ethics challenge our perception of the “brokenbeautiful” by emphasizing “bodies’ wisdom, need, and desire” (Piepzna-Samarasinha 2018). The novel as a form often allows us to sit within this tension between the body’s needs and its undone-ness, providing the opportunity to uncover more complex forms of embodiment. Indeed, the phrase “temporarily able-bodied” points to the intersection of temporality, embodiment, and normativity that shapes and is disrupted by literary representations of the body when it experiences disease and disability (Puar 2017).

This special issue seeks essays that explore the way the novel as a form intertwines, disaggregates, confounds, and represents the embodied experience of disability and disease. We invite essays that employ a range of theoretical perspectives and are particularly interested in approaches from the intersection of the form of the novel with queerness, disability, and care ethics, along with studies of embodiment, care ethics, disability studies, queer and crip studies. We draw heavily from critical thinkers on disability and embodiment, such as Judith Butler, Alison Kafer, Emile Durkheim, Sami Schalk, Lennard Davis, Rosmarie Garland-Thomson, Tobin Siebers, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, and J. Logan Smilges, to situate our understanding of disability, disease, populations, and belonging.

This Special Issue on disability and disease in the novel calls us to encounter each other–and ourselves–where we least expect to, and where we most need to: at the limits of our ability to make meaning, to perform functions, even to live. It is here where we find each other; it is here where our commitment to what makes us human begins.

The aim of this Special Issue is to offer studies across temporal, geographic, and theoretical boundaries which together will produce a groundbreaking collection from new and established voices across the breadth of Literary Studies.

We particularly hope to see contributions that address

●      Disability, disease, and the body in various genres of the novel such as eco-gothic, cli-fi, and horror

●      Disease, pandemics, and ethics of care in historical, contemporary, or speculative narratives

●      The impacts of violence, conflict, and crisis on disability

●      The structural causes and consequences of notions of “disability” and/or diagnoses of “disease”

●      Indigenous and postcolonial literatures’ representations of health and/or illness

●      Diaspora, immigration/migration, and transnational narratives of dis/ability

●      Narratives of the body about and by trans, intersex, and 2S people

●      Race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, and/or national identity as they intersect with the experience of disease, disability, and embodiment

The deadline for submissions is October 1, 2024. Please submit to the Special Issue editors: Dr. Lydia Cooper at lcooper1@seattleu.edu and Dr. Matthew Reznicek at reznicek@umn.edu. Please feel free to email with queries about potential ideas, as well.