Sharif Bitar


Ever since the formation of the field, American disability studies have ceaselessly reiterated disability activism’s demands for equal access, participation, i.e. generally, for inclusion. In literary disability studies these demands translate into investigations of disability representations, ultimately aiming to lay bare the constructedness of our understanding of disability, which motivates and justifies the multifaceted exclusion of persons with disabilities. However, the conspicuous and unexpected absence of a considerable number of texts from the body of works that literary disability studies have analyzed and criticized suggests that, alongside the claim to inclusion, there are strategies of discursive exclusion at work within disability scholarship. To be precise, there has been a neglect of the genres usually referred to as ‘fantastic fiction’ in the scholarly endeavors of literary disability studies. 

Against the backdrop of this observation, my dissertation sets out to explore for what reasons and by what discursive means literary disability studies has focused so extensively on social realism while excluding the potentially insightful perspective of fantastic fiction. Integral to my research is that the synchronicity of the claim to inclusion of persons with disabilities, and the exclusion of fantastic fiction is in fact somewhat paradoxical. While disability studies object to persons with disabilities being barred from participative processes of decision-making, they deny writers of fantastic fiction to participate in the discourse on disability, a ‘cultural decision-making process.’

The analysis focuses, one, on formative texts both from the early years of disability activism, and from literary scholarship within the freshly emerging field of disability studies. These texts will deliver insight into the foundation of literary disability studies’ preference of social realist fiction, its ideological and scholarly involvements—generally, into the demarcation process of a field of study in its infancy. Two, the analysis focuses on more recent works such as journal articles, reviews and monographs—texts that will shed light on how the status quo of excluding fantastic fiction is maintained and justified in an arguably established academic field. In conclusion, a discussion attempts to achieve a theoretical understanding of the findings’ significance, deliberating if the exclusion of fantastic fiction represent practices of empowerment, or practices of bias.

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