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Writing Disability: A Critical History

Sara Newman
Writing Disability: A Critical History
ISBN: 978-1-935049-54-8
ISBN: 978-1-935049-78-4
2012/207 pages/LC: 2012030417
Disability in Society
A FirstForumPress Book
"Thought provoking and insightful.... This book opens up new ways of engaging with disability experience while reminding us that disability is an ordinary and everyday occurrence at all points in human history."—Jane Buckingham, H-Disability

"Wonderful for anyone interested in disability life writing or the Western history of disability. It is an important text for the extensive historical knowledge it provides about how disabled persons and their disabilities have been recognized in societies."—Dax Garcia, Review of Disability Studies

"A refreshingly lively voice that will appeal to a wide audience.... Highly recommended."—Choice

"An essential resource.... Makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of how disabled people have understood and represented their condition from ancient times to the present."—G. Thomas Couser, Hofstra University

"An important contribution.... Newman provides the most comprehensive analysis of disability life writing to date."—Sarah Smith Rainey, Bowling Green State University


What accounts for the differing ways that individuals and cultures have tried to make sense of mental and physical disabilities? Can we see a pattern of change over time? Sara Newman examines personal narratives across a broad sweep of history—from ancient Greece to the present day—to reveal the interplay of dynamics that have shaped both personal and societal conceptions of mental and physical difference.


Sara Newman is professor of English at Kent State University.


  • Disability and Life Writing.
  • Ancient Sources: Outcasts, Oracles, and Old Age.
  • Medieval Voices: Sins, Salvation, and the Female Body.
  • Early Modern Era: Reenacting Reform.
  • The Long Eighteenth Century: Reason and Logic in an Enlightened Age.
  • The Nineteenth Century: Insanity and Asylums.
  • The Twentieth Century: Helen Keller and the Public Reception of Disability.
  • The Twentieth Century: Military, Biomedical, and Personal Perspectives.
  • Into the Twenty-First Century: Presence in the Digital Age.