DFG Research Training Group Globalization and Literature. Representations, Transformations,  Interventions

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Martina Kübler

Martina Kübler

Imperial Discomfort: Disabled Bodies as Negotiations of Empire in 19th- and 20th-century Anglophone Literature

Dissertation Abstract

In my dissertation project I hypothesize that physically disabled male characters in 19th- and 20th-century Anglophone fiction are sites of representation and negotiation for processes of globalization. Literature transfers the dynamics of 'empire' (Hardt and Negri) – e.g. the rise and fall of the British Empire and, similarly, the American world hegemony – as scars, deficiencies, and impairments onto the bodies of previously unmarked white males. While the pirates' and seafarers' wounds and amputated limbs in late 19th-century exploration narratives can be read to signify fortifications of masculinity and honorable sacrifices made in the name of capitalism and imperialism, disabled bodies in Modernist texts of the early to mid-20th century require a re-evaluation of the disability trope. My hypothesis further questions the idea that Modernist texts are apolitical and deal with exclusively domestic subject matter. On the contrary, my project aims to untangle how the "unacceptable" disabled body negotiates questions of imperial space, absence and lack, and of supremacy, domination and Othering. Disability in 19th- and 20th-century Anglophone literature thus merits consideration with regard to its imperial entanglements, by asking specifically how disabled bodies make perceptible the fragmentation, complexity, and incompleteness of the late stages of the British Empire and the early stages of the American global hegemony.

Short CV

Since 2016 PhD Candidate at the Research Training Group

2014-2016: Research Student at the Research Training Group

2016: Graduate degree (Staatsexamen) in English and Economics, LMU Munich

2011: B.Sc. Political Economy, Heidelberg University