Narrative Prosthesis

Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse
David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder
Reveals how depictions of disability in fiction serve an essential narrative function


Narrative Prosthesis: Disability and the Dependencies of Discourse develops a narrative theory of the pervasive use of disability as a device of characterization in literature and film. It argues that, while other marginalized identities have suffered cultural exclusion due to a dearth of images reflecting their experience, the marginality of disabled people has occurred in the midst of the perpetual circulation of images of disability in print and visual media. The manuscript's six chapters offer comparative readings of key texts in the history of disability representation, including the tin soldier and lame Oedipus, Montaigne's "infinities of forms" and Nietzsche's "higher men," the performance history of Shakespeare's Richard III, Melville's Captain Ahab, the small town grotesques of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio and Katherine Dunn's self-induced freaks in Geek Love.

David T. Mitchell is Associate Professor of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Sharon L. Snyder is Assistant Professor of Disability and Human Development at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Praise / Awards

  • "The thesis of Mitchell and Snyder's book, that narrative functions as a type of prosthetic response to the structure of disability that it inaugurates—the idea that it proceeds on the basis of something needing fixing, some flaw in the natural order, often thematized through a disabled character—is both convincing and astonishingly radical. The authors, while possessing an impressive knowledge of the field of disability studies as well as the objects it might take for its analyses, manage to present their material in a most approachable manner. Some of the readings are especially strong, relying on a sound and practiced approach to the business of reading-as-analysis, always attentive to the text and unfailingly perceptive."
    —Davis Wills, University at Albany (SUNY)
  • "Narrative Prosthesis is by far the most sophisticated and most wide-ranging study of 'disability and the dependencies of discourse' yet undertaken. From Shakespeare to film (not as fare apart as you would think); from Montaigne to Moby Dick (also an interesting pair) Mitchell and Snyder postulate how we have had to imagine those human beings represented as disabled. Theoretically acute; clearly written-a must read for all of those interested in disabilities and their cultural implications."
    —Sander L. Gilman, University of Chicago
  • ". . . Mitchell & [sic] Snyder have produced an interesting and provocative addition to the impressive canon of North American disability studies scholarship in the area of literary representation."
    Disability & Society, Volume 16, No. 7 (2001)
  • ". . . very stimulating. . . . Its theoretical freshness makes it easy for me to recommend it to anyone in the field."
    —Aleksandar Dimitrijevic
  • "The theory of narrative prosthesis provides a fresh and thought-provoking approach to disability representation."
    —Joyce L. Huff, NWSA Journal

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 232pp.
  • 10 illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2001
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-06748-0

Add to Cart
  • $29.95 U.S.

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