Maria Vaccarella – Whose Disability? Challenging Stereotypical Representations of Epilepsy

Event Date: 21 March 2013
Centre for Creative Collaboration (c4cc)
16 Acton Street
London WC1X 9NG

Part of Royal Holloway’s Trauma, Fiction, History Series, jointly sponsored by the School of Modern Languages, Literatures and Cultures and the Humanities and Arts Research Centre, Royal Holloway, University of London:

Disability and Culture: Whose Tragedy?

As part of Dr Hannah Thompson‘s research on representations of disability, this series of workshops are developing an interdisciplinary and collaborative research project called ‘Disability and Culture’. The first event in this project is a study day to explore how the ‘personal non-tragedy’ approach to disability can encourage us to see disability differently.

Dr Maria Vaccarella (Centre for the Humanities and Health and Comparative Literature Department, King’s College London) – Whose Disability? Challenging Stereotypical Representations of Epilepsy

This paper aims at exploring the problematic application of either medical or social disability models to epilepsy, an often invisible neurological condition, which nonetheless might abruptly manifest itself in the form of seizures. Loss of motor control, shaking and incontinence, as well as bruises and wounds caused by sudden falling, suddenly and dramatically increase the visibility of epilepsy and have been associated with stigmatizing practices throughout centuries and societies. At the same time, contemporary cultural representations of epilepsy often resignify the convulsive body as a source of and vehicle for subjective illness depictions. These innovative ways of conceiving disability in literature and performing arts will be the focus of this analysis. Anticipated key themes will be the creative reappropriation of tonic-clonic movements and impairment of consciousness, the reconfiguration of medical voyeurism and the management of narrative unreliability.

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