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The Variable Body in History

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Edited By Chris Mounsey and Stan Booth

The essays in this book explore the different ways the body has been experienced and interpreted in history, from the medieval to the modern period. Challenging the negative perceptions that the term ‘disability’ suggests, the essays together present a mosaic of literary representations of bodies and accounts of real lives lived in their particularity and peculiarity. The book does not attempt to be exhaustive, but rather it celebrates the fact that it is not. By presenting a group of individual cases from different periods in history, the collection demonstrates that any overarching way of describing bodies, or unifying description of the experience of the myriad ways of being in a body, is reductive and unhelpful. The variability of each body in its context is our subject.
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Aphra Behn’s ‘Blind Lady’: Reading Impairment/Impairing Reading

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This essay argues that Aphra Behn, writing during the Restoration, was able to combine an understanding of the impaired body as a lived experience, with a political metaphor: Varronian satire. The combination, the essay argues, set off Behn’s career as a playwright in her attack on the Whig Robert Howard’s play The Blind Lady, in a satire The Unfortunate Bride: or, the Blind Lady a Beauty that was not published until after Howard’s death in 1698, which has skewed the chronology of her writing and our understanding of Behn’s career in the theatre.

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