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Premodern Disability Histories: Crip Authority and the Art of Consolation in Renaissance Representations of Disability

Having explored how discourses of monstrosity influence representations of disability in the global Renaissance in her 2019 monograph, Bearden’s talk reflects on this project and presents material from her next book, which examines how canonical Renaissance writers and artists represent themselves and their work by drawing on the ancient tradition of consolation, or texts that offer comfort and remedy for worldly vicissitudes including mental and physical disability. Consolation provides disabled writers with authoritative rhetorical, medical, and spiritual modes of crafting disability narratives that transgressively resignify disability identity into what Bearden calls “crip authority.” Paying attention to early modern disability discourse, and to what disabled authors say about their own embodiment and ideas, shows how central disability is to many canonical texts and concepts of the Renaissance that continue to influence our thinking about embodiment and its relation to aesthetics today.

Presented by Elizabeth B. Bearden (UW-Madison).

This event took place on 25 February 2021