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Katherine Sullivan’s Formal Post on Laurie Clements Lambeth’s “Hypoesthesia”

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“Are you touching me,

I thought to ask, but instead watched as he kissed each part and caressed

and did what we do when I feel right. I didn’t say          I can’t feel that,

but let his hands and mouth travel.

For the first time in my life I let go of my body a while and looked down

with fascination at the man I love in the process of loving me —” (lines 11-16)

Laurie Clements Lambeth’s poem titled “Hypoesthesia” presents three unique perspectives on disability that are captured in a single, vulnerable moment between a disabled woman and her lover.  In this scene, the female speaker cultivates a new definition of disability (that our class has not yet examined), offers an unguarded view of sexuality in a life driven by disability, and experiences the clarity of viewing the self through the eyes of one’s lover.

The excerpt above highlights the exact moment in which the speaker realizes that her body is not defined by her disability.  She is finally able to “let go” of her body and notice that her lover appreciates her exactly as she is.  This acceptance of self is significant in that the speaker learns to experience the pleasure of sex in an entirely new way.  She no longer feels inadequate for not being able to feel the delicate sensations that her lover draws on her skin, and in turn finds pleasure in her lover’s enjoyment.

This poem also describes a shift in the speaker’s attitudes towards sex in the lens of her disability. Up to this moment, the speaker’s entire life, and all of her sexual experiences have been “senseless,” meaning both without logic or thought, and without the feeling of sensations.  This epiphany allows the speaker to finally actively participate in sex, instead of allowing it to happen to her against her will.  Previously, the speaker was not able to actually feel what her lover did to express his feelings through her body, but she instead grows to experience it by watching and listening to her lover.

Lastly, this unique poem cultivates a new definition that our class has not yet come across. Not a non-normative functioning of the mind, or a broken or painful aspect of the body – but the absence of feeling, be that potential feeling bad (like some of the other disabilities we have studied) or good (like the sensations of the speaker’s lover).   In this way, her skin is essentially blind to texture and pressure, but not to temperature, as we see in the line “with each kiss planted along my belly, to feel only the cool afterward.”  This kind of disability connects to many other neutrality-based disabilities that our class has not yet studied, such as emotional disorders that render individuals incapable of processing other’s emotions.

The speaker’s disconnect from the traditional physical senses of her body lead her to a significant epiphany of how she views her own body, sexuality within that body, and disability.  This poem contributes significantly to our class’ on-going discussion of disability because it introduces the complications of sexuality and self-identity.

Written by Katherine Sullivan

November 4th, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Sarah Roop’s Formal Blog Post on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”

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“A Christmas Carol” portrays the disability of Tiny Tim in a clear and often uplifting light. The young boy, who comes from a poor family, is always cheerful despite the hardships that he has faced. At times this is seemingly unrealistic. In chapter three, when Scrouge first visits the family with the Second Ghost, Tiny Tim is put up on a figurative pedestal in the mind’s eye of the family. This can be seeing when Mrs. Crachit asks how he behaved at church and Bob Crachit compared his behavior to better than gold.

As the dialogue continues, a connection is made between Tiny Tim and Christ, which further idolizes the representation of disability. Bob Cratchit relays the words of the young boy, “He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see,” (page 58). Tiny Tim is referencing the healing powers that Christ possessed. His mannerism is also similar to the representation of Christ as a humble person. Tiny Tim has accepted his disability and hopes that others will be able to learn from his misfortune, in a sense he actions and words self-sacrificing.  Crachit goes on further to say that “Tiny Tim was growing strong and hearty”, as if he himself is being healed by the powers of believing. The connection to Jesus and his ability to heal the the unfortunate  is reinforced with the words ‘”God Bless us every one!” said Tiny Tim, the last of all.’ (page 60)

Tiny Tim was an icon for disability, as the family’s merriment often centered around the strength and perseverance. Scrooge upon seeing the small boy softened and was genuinely concerned for the well-being of Tiny Tim. This is seen around the world with people who have a disability. Those individuals are often reflected in a somber light that illuminates their disability, while acting as icons for the rest of society. The portrayal of Tiny Tim and his cheerfulness became a standard of measure for the world. People saw his actions and felt that all people with disabilites acted in the same manner.

Written by sroop

September 22nd, 2010 at 10:31 am

Robert’s Formal Post on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”

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We do not typically think of “endearing” Tiny Tim as a cyborg. This, however, makes for an interesting and thought provoking comparison. In “Disability in Theory: From Social Constructionism to the New Realism of the New Body,”  Tobin Siebers quotes Donna Harroway’s definition of cyborgs as “a hybrid of machine and organism” (178). Siebers argues that Harroway’s theory means “our cyborgs are people with disabilities” (178). Tiny Tim’s “active little crutch” (58), limb “in an iron cage”, and his father’s substitution as “Tim’s blood horse” (57) are useful tools that create what Harroway calls “power charged communication” (178). In A Christmas Carol, the “power charged communication” rests almost solely within Tiny Tim and his disability and his/its effect on the miserly Scrooge. Tiny Tim provides a moral conviction for Scrooge, one that ultimately brings about a change of heart in the frigid and miserable man.

Without his disability – or, more specifically, the prosthetic devices involved – Tiny Tim would have no “power charged communication” to affect Scrooge’s black heart. If Tiny Tim and his disability had not affected Scrooge so deeply, then Scrooge would not have “hung his head to hear his own words [about decreasing the surplus population] quoted by the Spirit” or have been “overcome with penitence and grief” (60). Without the hybridization of host and machine – in this case, Tiny Tim and his crutch(es) –Scrooge would have been doomed to an eternity in chains, Tiny Tim’s crutch would have set motionless by the wall, the Cratchits would not have gotten their Christmas Turkey, and we would have been left with no warm and fuzzy Christmas story.

Written by Robert

September 21st, 2010 at 11:11 pm