Elisha Cohn responds to Travis Lau

Although neuro-physical diversity in itself does not play a major role in The Outward Mind, you convince me of the book’s relevance to disability studies. After all, some of Morgan’s key interlocutors are provocative on this front: Eve Sedgwick’s reparative scholarship—which Morgan perpetuates—has certainly been oriented toward disability studies, as well as queer studies, in their articulations of what makes for a livable life. And Jacques Rancière’s notion that the perceptible can be partitioned newly and differently to accommodate a changing public, a public that can be reconstituted through the inclusion as persons of those formerly excluded may have resonance as well.

Turning backward, it can be hard to find Victorian writers who uncouple disability from other social agendas, as Martha Stoddard Holmes has shown. Of the Victorian writers most engaged with disability, Wilkie Collins—author of Hide and Seek and Poor Miss Finch, both of which imagine a robust, complex life for their deaf or blind heroines—receives some treatment in The Outward Mind. Morgan notes that sensation fiction was “less a genre that embodies mind and more a genre that enminds matter” (141). The sensational conditions that most interest Morgan in Collins are states that elude “interiorized” (141) consciousness or volition entirely. As you suggest, starting with the dismantling of dualism may be key where we don’t see explicit engagement with disability. But Collins is also fascinated with the pressures and pleasures that attend living in and as a non-normative body. In the intersection of these two projects in such a writer, I think we can find a precursor to our “bodyminds.”

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