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The DisarticulateLanguage, Disability, and the Narratives of Modernity$
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James Berger

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780814708460

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814708460.001.0001

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Linguistic Impairment and the Default of Modernism

Linguistic Impairment and the Default of Modernism

Totality and Otherness: Dys-/Disarticulate Modernity

Chapter:
(p.53) 2 Linguistic Impairment and the Default of Modernism
Source:
The Disarticulate
Author(s):

James Berger

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9780814708460.003.0003

This chapter places dys-/disarticulate figures in William Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, and Djuna Barnes in the context of anxieties of modernity—the sense that in epistemological and administrative terms, the modern world sought to define and control all phenomena. The dys-/disarticulate here is that which cannot be accounted for and which thus has some undetermined subversive power. And yet in The Sound and the Fury, The Secret Agent, and Nightwood, modern science and social thought very much sought to place cognitively impaired people in a clinical and bureaucratic category, that of the “feeble-minded,” “idiot,” or “degenerate”—persons who constitute threats to a well-ordered, democratic polity and who therefore had to be both cared for and controlled. The imagining of the characters in the novels coincided with the expansion of state power into the lives of cognitively impaired people and their families in the forms of compulsory institutionalization and sterilization.

Keywords:   dys-/disarticulate, William Faulkner, Joseph Conrad, Djuna Barnes, modernity, The Sound and the Fury, The Secret Agent, Nightwood, cognitively impaired people, institutionalization

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