Elizabeth Bearden

Position title: Resident Fellow (2016-2017)

English, UW-Madison

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Monstrous Kinds: Body, Space, and Narrative in Renaissance Representations of Disability

This book investigates how people with disabilities defined and were defined by early modern representations of bodies, spaces, and narratives. It builds on insights that I have gleaned from investigating the relations between experimental genres, visuality, and vulnerable cultural identity, focusing this knowledge on the theorization of disability in the global Renaissance. Understanding how early modern writers normed, located, and related disability not only provides us with more accurate genealogies of disability, but it also helps us to nuance current aesthetic and theoretical disability formulations.

I consider conduct books and treatises, travel writing, wonder books, and essays. The cross-section of texts is comparative, putting canonical European authors such as Castiglione and Cervantes into dialogue with transatlantic and Anglo-Ottoman literary exchange. Its methodology takes a formal and philosophical approach to pre-modern formulations of monstrous bodies, spaces, and narratives, which continue to shape our understandings of disability today.

Professor Elizabeth B. Bearden is a scholar and teacher of early modern literature with training in Comparative Literature, Classics, the History of Rhetoric, Visual Culture Studies, and Disability Studies. She received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from NYU in 2006 and her A. B. in Comparative Literature at Princeton in 1998. She is an Associate Professor in the English department at UW-Madison. Her first monograph, The Emblematics of the Self: Ekphrasis and Identity in Renaissance Imitations of Greek Romance, was published by the University of Toronto Press in 2012  and has been positively reviewed in leading journals. She has published articles in PMLA, The Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, Ancient Narrative Supplementum, and Arizona Journal of Hispanic Cultural Studies. Additionally, she directed a Digital Humanities project on Philip Sidney’s funeral, which appeared in a Folger Shakespeare Library exhibition in Washington, DC.