Tanja Reiffenrath (Universität Paderborn): "The Politics of Well-being: Countering Discrimination in Contemporary Disability Memoirs" 

Wednesday, 24.06.2015, 14:15 p.m. - 15:45 p.m., U9/01.11

"Let the shameful wall of exclusion finally come tumbling down," President George Bush heralded when he signed the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) into law in 1990. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the ADA and provides all the more occasion for reflecting on issues of disability, discrimination, and inclusion.

Referring to selected passages from contemporary disability memoirs, such as Stephen Kuusisto's Planet of the Blind (1998), Ben Mattlin's Miracle Boy Grows Up: How the Disability Rights Revolution Saved My Sanity (2012), and Simi Linton's My Body Politic (2006), this talk will turn to literary engagements with disability legislation. Linton's memoir in particular will allow us to explore well-being as a political matter and an embodied form of disability advocacy. Ultimately, disability memoirs like Linton's call us to rethink ability, perfection, and health and sketch visions of a more inclusive "body politic."

Tanja Reiffenrath teaches American literature and culture at the University of Paderborn. She has recently submitted her Ph.D. thesis "Memoirs of Well-Being: Rewriting Discourses of Illness and Disability." Her study on transnational cinema, titled From Ethnic to Transnational: Screening Indian American Families, has been published with LIT Verlag in 2014.