Disability and Modern Fiction: Faulkner, Morrison, Coetzee by Alice Hall (auth.)

By Alice Hall (auth.)

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Extra resources for Disability and Modern Fiction: Faulkner, Morrison, Coetzee and the Nobel Prize for Literature

Example text

He has a scar, you see. But I am confident this can be removed” ’ (94). The onset of Donald’s blindness also leads to an increasing focus in Soldier’s Pay on alternative modes of sensory perception. In the context of this darkening vision, touch becomes a mode of communication and identification in the text. One of the few moments of apparent recognition by Donald is provoked not by speech but by touch. It is the very condition of not seeing (on the part of both Donald and Cecily) that allows this moment of intimacy and non-linguistic communication between them: ‘Donald, sweetheart,’ [Cecily] said, putting her arm about Mahon.

Disabled figures act as physical reminders of the horrors of warfare: the anonymous ‘soldiers maimed and unmaimed . . old men and women in black veils and armbands’11 provide a background in A Fable but they also occupy the foreground of works such as Soldier’s Pay. The centrality of traditionally marginalized perspectives in Faulkner’s novels is most striking in the first section of The Sound and the Fury in which readers become complicit with ‘idiot’ Benjy’s mode of perceiving the world. Faulkner’s focus on conditions of sensory deprivation and mental impairment has frequently been read by critics in terms of a representational, linguistic crisis.

Perhaps give some indication of what pure sensation might be. (30) Faulkner also explores this ambiguous state between sleeping and waking in which the distance between subject and object is collapsed. Benjy’s intimate narrative captures the fluidity of distinctions between shapes, sounds and perceptual categories, through a focus on moments when the boundary between sleep and consciousness is blurred: ‘The shapes flowed on. ’56 Like Woolf’s invalid in ‘On Being Ill’, staring up at the sky, Faulkner suggests that the condition of disability – whether physical or mental – does not foreclose, but rather opens up alternative imaginative and narrative possibilities.

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