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Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2019

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Comparative Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type

Dissertation

Abstract

A period of intense nation-building, the late nineteenth century was marked by the search for medical and legal solutions to the increasing number of bodies that did not align with culturally constructed expectations of productivity and reproduction in Spanish modernity. Authors of this time used representations of disability to engage in urgent political questions about population control and the rights of individuals in the face of increasing medical intervention. In carrying out this analysis, I raise the question of how representations of disability created a space to reconfigure the social values that determined what lives matter. Focusing on canonical realist authors Emilia Pardo Bazán and Benito Pérez Galdós, as well as the modernist Sofía Casanova, I locate literary production within larger cultural debates by analyzing fiction alongside legal and scientific constructions of disability. Nineteenth-century scholarship from fields as varied as criminal anthropology, gynecology, and economics shaped expectations for health around ideas of national progress. The inability to satisfy work schedules and heteronormative life milestones, such as marrying and starting a family, became indicators of disability that presented a threat to social progress. Discussions on racial evolution and imperial decadence raised the stakes of these debates by tying the health of the nation and to the progression of humanity as a whole. This analysis of literary texts published between 1886 and 1904 teases out the discursive convergences and contradictions that constructed disability in relation to time by drawing on the disability studies concept of crip time — the lifestyle or schedules of a person with a disability that is culturally imagined as being at odds with progress. By centering on representations of crip time, this project evidences an ambivalence in nineteenth-century Spanish literature toward medical discourses and an awareness of the precarity of being a “healthy” and able-bodied person at a historical moment in which health and ability are defined in continuously narrowing terms.

Language

English (en)

Chair and Committee

Akiko Tsuchiya

Committee Members

Miriam Bailin, Tili Boon Cuillé, Bill McKelvy, Joseph Schraibman,

Comments

Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.7936/q9zj-0b60

Available for download on Friday, December 03, 2021

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