Concerto for the Left Hand

Disability and the Defamiliar Body
Michael Davidson
A major new work that probes questions of disability and aesthetics across a range of  art forms, from Deaf poetry to film noir


Concerto for the Left Hand is at the cutting edge of the expanding field of disability studies, offering a wide range of essays that investigate the impact of disability across various art forms—including literature, performance, photography, and film. Rather than simply focusing on the ways in which disabled persons are portrayed, Michael Davidson explores how the experience of disability shapes the work of artists and why disability serves as a vital lens through which to interpret modern culture. Covering an eclectic range of topics—from the phantom missing limb in film noir to the poetry of American Sign Language—this collection delivers a unique and engaging assessment of the interplay between disability and aesthetics.

Written in a fluid, accessible style, Concerto for the Left Hand will appeal to both specialists and general audiences. With its interdisciplinary approach, this book should appeal not only to scholars of disability studies but to all those working in minority art, deaf studies, visual culture, and modernism.

"Professor Davidson—an accomplished literary critic—offers a focused and balanced analysis of poetry, film, and the arts honed with his excellent knowledge of the latest advances in disability studies. He is brilliant at reading texts in a sophisticated and aesthetically pleasurable way, making Concerto for the Left Hand one of the smartest books to date in disability studies."
—Lennard Davis, University of Illinois, Chicago

"Moving elegantly among social theorists and cultural texts, Davidson exemplifies and propels an ethical-aesthetic model for criticism. Davidson asks continuously and with a committed intensity 'where a disability ends and the social order begins' . . . this book brings the study of poetry and poetics into the twenty-first century."
—Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Temple University

Illustration: Paul Wittgenstein photographed by Madame d'Ora (Dora Philippine Kallmus, 1881-1963) in Vienna, about 1918. © Wittgenstein Archive, Cambridge

Michael Davidson is Professor of American Literature at the University of California, San Diego. His other books include Guys Like Us: Citing Masculinity in Cold War Poetics and Ghostlier Demarcations: Modern Poetry and the Material World.

Praise / Awards

  • "In this admirable, ably argued consideration of disability issues in an aesthetic context, Davidson makes the tricky leap from art to social justice and empowerment...Davidson offers revelatory close readings of poetry, film, design, and art en route to establishing the Derridean difference involved when the maker is an artist with a disability. Davidson cites many of the top thinkers in disability studies (Paul Longmore, Rosemarie Garland Thomson, Lennard Davis) en route to broadening the canon in an admirable way."
  • "Taken as a whole, the book is an exemplary illustration of the possibilities opened up by a cultural approach to disability - and a disability-influenced approach to culture."
    Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies
  • "Davidson is making an implicit statement about how to canonize disability writing... This sense of belonging (belonging, that is, to a disabled culture) is the primary issue upon which Davidson frames a prospective literature of disability."
    American Literary History
  • "The 1700th anniversary of Constantine’s victory over Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge in October A.D. 312 has seen a spate of studies of that significant but elusive emperor... John Dillon’s sound and judicious study, based on his PhD thesis, is a more specialized addition to the list, and concentrates on the ethos of Constantine’s administrative legislation... The strength of [Dillon]’s analysis of a series of texts on how Constantine tried to ensure accountability on the part of his officials lies in their cumulative effect..."
    Late Antiquity

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Copyright © 2008, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 304pp.
  • 14 B&W photographs and 2 line drawings.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2008
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-05033-8

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  • $29.95 U.S.

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