Title: Representing Renaissance Queer Crips
Abstract: My latest scholarship explores literature produced by the famous, seventeenth-century poet Andrew Marvell. Specifically, I am interested in a burgeoning theoretical disposition in English Renaissance studies, one that investigates the history and literary representations of disability. In my talk, I use a disability studies framework to show how Marvell’s poetry interprets and makes sense of human variation and bodily difference, from wounds to blindness to castration. I’ll discuss Marvell’s representations of castration, impotency, and non-normative, sexual physicality and then examine how those representations relate to Renaissance medical and cultural ideas about sexualized bodily difference. For example, Marvell’s poem “Upon a Eunuch” might be understood as a kind of disability narrative in which verse is imagined as an alternate means of sexual activity and impregnation; for Marvell, poems become prosthetic objects that enable the eunuch to procreate in ways “typical” able-bodied individuals often do. In examining Marvell’s meditation on poems as sexual prostheses, my argument also illuminates the useful intersections of sexuality/queer studies and early modern disability studies. Much has been said in the last decade or so about the productive reciprocity between queer and crip identities and theories, though predominately in a modern context: among other things, sexual minorities and people with disabilities share a history of injustice and activist resistance to the prejudicial demand that corporeal “defects” be normalized. This talk aims to open up new conversations around sexualized bodily difference and disability in modernity and, especially, in the context of 17th c England.
Doreen Simonsen and Stephanie DeGooyer
Faculty Colloquium Coordinators