The Possibility of an Island: Colonialism, Embodiment and Utopia in Pre-Modern Literature
This essay considers the implications of disabled bodies in colonized spaces by juxtaposing the work of Teresa of Cartagena with Shakespeare’s Tempest. The essay demonstrates that the disabled body insistently gestures to the need for utopian spaces. In her treatises The Grove of the Infirm and Admiración Operum Dei, Teresa of Cartagena, a disabled nun, created a discursive space for herself, a cloister within a cloister. Though her identity as a conversa posed a threat to nascent ideas of Spanishness, or Hispanitas, her allegorical grove enabled artistic creation for those left out of the body politic. In contrast, the character of Caliban in The Tempest reminds readers of the utopia which the island was before contact. It is only to Europeans that Caliban is a monster, the product of an insalubrious island. Although colonialism can prove a disabling force, the response of disabled people can also underline the utopias possible in both memory and creation.
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