Imane, who has recently completed her PhD, will be giving the following talk as part of the Coventry University School of Humanities Research Talks Series on Weds 11 March 16:00-17:00 in the George Eliot building GE403:

Rethinking Marginal Otherness: An Integrated Approach to Disability as a Social Construct in Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury (1929)

Imane Bouchakour

This study examines the construction of Benjy’s disability identity in William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury (1929). It proposes a new platform for the investigation of the linguistic, stylistic and social constructions of disability identity, to rethink the status of marginal Otherness in the novel. It suggests that Faulkner criticizes the dynamics of normativity and constructs an empowering disability identity for Benjy. As such, it forms part of the emerging critical reconceptualization of disability informed by disability studies. The study develops a new approach that integrates literary disability studies, the Social Model of disability and corpus stylistics to shift critical understandings of disability. Corpus stylistic findings constitute the basis for literary interpretations, allowing theories drawn from disability studies and social constructionism to be synthesized in support of corpus stylistic analyses. The cooperation between corpus stylistics and literary theory provides new insights into the novel’s construction of disability.

The study challenges earlier responses to Benjy’s disability drawn from the former Medical Model, and criticizes their claims about his idiocy and mindlessness. Following the lead of disability scholars (Garland-Thomson 1997; 2001; Mitchell and Snyder 2000; Quayson 2006; Davis 2013; Bérubé 2016; Hall 2016) who have disassociated disability from impairment and suggested a move towards a more positive identification of disability, the study destabilizes the normative notions and stereotypes emphasized in prior studies to highlight Benjy’s extraordinary disability identity. This approach would make a significant contribution to literary disability studies of Faulkner’s Benjy by subverting the dominant conceptions of disability as a site of defect.

Keywords: disability identity, deviance, Otherness, empowering identity, extraordinary mind

social constructionism, literary disability studies


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