Extraordinary Bodies by Rosemarie Garland Thomson

By Rosemarie Garland Thomson

Inaugurates a brand new box of incapacity stories via framing incapacity as a minority discourse instead of a scientific one, revising oppressive narratives and revealing liberatory ones. The booklet examines disabled figures in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin and Rebecca Harding Davis's existence within the Iron generators, in African-American novels by means of Toni Morrison and Audre Lorde, and within the well known cultural ritual of the freak express.

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47 Kuhn de­ fines "novelties" as phenomena that cannot be aligned �Tith scientific expecta­ tions, and argues that when such exceptional phenomena accumulate or be­ come so compelling that they can no longer be dismissed, their presence forces a shift in scientific paradigms so that a new set of beliefs emerges . Kuhn's view of the extraordinary's power to unsettle the ascendant order is echoed by Mikhail Bakhtin's notion that the grotesque body as carnivalesque disrupts the status quo and inverts social hierarchies .

Thus , we speak no,,,, of "feminisms," i'conflicts in feminism," "hyphenated feminisms," and even "postfeminism. I'4 Histori­ cally, academic feminism combines the highly political civil rights and accom­ panying identity politics impulses of th� 1 960s and 1 970s with postructural­ ism's theoretical critique of the liberal humanist faith in knowledge, truth, and identity, often adding an insistence on materiality gleaned from Marxist thought. The focus of feminist conversation has shifted from early debates be­ tween liberal and radical feminisms, which focused on achieving equality, to later formulations of cultural and gynocentric feminisms, which highlighted and rehabilitated female differenct�s.

3 1 Hygiene and pathogenicity, Douglas points out, are relatively recent legitimations for the concept of dirt as a cultural contami­ nant. 32 One might combine Douglas and Goffman to assert that human stigmata function as social dirt. This cultural intolerance of anomaly is one of the most pervasive themes in Western thought. One example is Aristotle's Poetics, the founding document of Western literary criticism, in which the schemata we call "probability" and "rationality" delimit the tragic plot, determining which elements may be prop­ erly included and which do not fit.

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