pauamma: Cartooney crab holding drink (Default)
posted by [personal profile] pauamma at 06:21pm on 06/01/2013 under , ,
trouble: N.B.: There will be very few dates in this history (history dates)
This review abused the word "However". My editors and thesis adviser despair regularly over my abuse of "However".

Woeful Afflictions: Disability and Sentimentality in Victorian America Woeful Afflictions: Disability and Sentimentality in Victorian America by Mary Klages


My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book was not what I expected when I picked it up, and I strongly suspect I was not the intended audience. It is primarily about literature, and I am an historian, so I struggle a great deal with the early chapters, and never quite got into the later ones as a result.That said, I think this book would be outstanding for people who are interested in ways people with disabilities are presented in literature.

Klages analyses a variety of textual sources, varying from Dickens' "The Old Curiosity Shop" to Gibson's "The Miracle Worker", from Cumming's "The Lamp Lighter" to Annual Reports from the Perkins Institute for the Blind and various autobiographical works by blind women, most notably Helen Keller.

I had difficulties with some of Klages' jargon, likely because we come from different disciplines. However, I also had problems with repetition throughout the book: How many times do we need to be reminded what is meant by "poster" in the sense of "poster child"? How many times does she need to repeat Howe's assertion that all blind people need "a comfortable home!", complete with exclamation mark? Combined with the lack of concluding chapter, I was left with the impression that I was reading a series of loosely-connected journal articles, rather than book.

However, I admit that Klages presented many interesting and informative ideas that I do plan to apply to my own work. I especially appreciated her discussion of the language of Annual Reports from Institutions for the Blind in Nineteenth Century US, because it helps situate the Annual Reports I'm reading in the broader literature at the time. I would recommend chapters of this book to historians, and likely the whole book to literary scholars, but not as an intro-book to issues around disability and representation.
Mood:: 'glum' glum

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