The disciplines represented in the interdisciplinary cluster of essays are narrative studies, disability studies, and legal studies. All seven of these essays had their first incarnations in a symposium on Narrative, Disability, and the Law held at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in February 2006, sponsored by the OSU Center for Interdisciplinary Law and Policy Studies and the OSU Department of English. I would like to thank Peter M. Shane, Director of the CILPS and Valerie Lee, Chair of the English Department, for their intellectual and financial support of the conference. I would also like to thank the entire committee that worked on the planning and logistics of the conference: Brenda Brueggemann, David Herman, Steven Kuusisto, and Amy Shuman from the OSU English Department; Ruth Colker and Sol Bermann from the Law School; Scott Lissner the ADA Coordinator on the OSU campus, and Ruth O'Brien of the Program in Political Science at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
The seven essays in this cluster do not follow a common pattern of argumentation. That's no surprise, since the authors come from different disciplines (literary studies, disability studies, linguistics, legal studies--with every author having a primary expertise in one discipline and at least a secondary interest in one or more of the others). Each author examines a particular issue or problem identified by the convergence of the three phenomena that form their common subject matter--narrative, disability, and the law--and each brings to the analysis his or her particular expertise within the relevant disciplines. The result is a rich set of findings, reflections, and speculations, ones that open up territory for further exploration by future interdisciplinary researchers. Robert Dinerstein in "'Every Picture Tells a Story, Don't It?': The Complex Role of Narratives in Disability Cases" focuses on narrative within the context of disability litigation, and he uses case studies to identify barriers to the effectiveness of narrative within the legal system as well as the potential of narrative for helping to expand the rights of people with disabilities. Susan Schweik in "Begging the Question: Disability, Mendicancy, Speech and the Law," develops a persuasive account of the connections between American attitudes toward the poor and American attitudes toward the disabled in her analysis of "unsightly beggar ordinances" and some legal challenges to them. Schweik notes that her own historical narrative offers insight into the way the American legal system still too often views people with disabilities as unsightly beggars. Thomas Couser in "Undoing Hardship: Life-Writing and Disability Law" examines the variety of relationships among personal narrative, cultural narrative, and the law, proposing a four item taxonomy. Personal narratives of disability may (1) anticipate changes in the law and (2) may tacitly reflect the law. But they may (3) have only a hypothetical relation to the law and they may seek (4) confirmation in the legal system--though in so doing they risk disconfirmation. Frank Munger and David Engel in "Narrative, Disability, and Identity" investigate the interconnections among the three terms of their title for a group of 60 men and women with disabilities that they interviewed. They are especially interested in the link between identity and a subject's sense of legal rights. They focus on two individuals for whom the interaction of narrative, disability, and identity leads to markedly different results, seeking to name the salient variables that best explain those differences.
The cluster of interdisciplinary essays concludes with a Dialogue among Ellen Barton, Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, and Elizabeth Emens about the interactions of disability, the body, narrative, and counternarrative. In "Disability Narratives of the Law: Narrative and Counternarrative," Barton performs a sociolinguistic analysis of narratives told at meetings of a disability support group to argue that, even within that supportive context, some narratives about disability are more welcome than others. In "Shape Structures Story," Garland-Thomson combines literary analysis, a disability studies perspective, and personal narrative about the uninhibited eroticism of the dance at the annual Society for Disability Studies Conference to unpack the meaning of her title. In Emens's exemplary response to both Barton and Garland-Thomson, she contends that, in addition to the worthwhile insights each offers, their essays point toward another important conclusion: in many contexts, "Shape Stops Story." I call Emens's essay "exemplary" because it accomplishes two very desirable tasks of the response paper: it enhances our appreciation of the essays under consideration even as it uncovers something significant that they have missed. The larger Dialogue among the three scholars is made possible by both their different disciplinary perspectives and their willingness to be open to each other's insights. In that respect, this Dialogue is a fitting conclusion to our cluster of essays on Narrative, Disability, and the Law.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2007|
|Previous Article:||Speed, rhythm, movement: a dialogue on K. Hume's article "narrative speed".|
|Next Article:||Narrative progression and receptivity: John Cowper Powys's A Glastonbury Romance.|