…rather than viewing disability as an identity marker for those with specific physical, mental, or emotional impairments, the concept of universal disability calls for disability to be seen as an aspect of everyone’s identity. Texts in the period intrinsically interrogate not only what is the normate self but what is the human self. In the physical sense, some sources connect persons with disabilities to non-human entities, like changelings in The Man of Law’s Tale and A Miracle of Thomas Becket, fairies in Evadeam, or animal images in Bisclavret. In a spiritual sense, saints with disabled bodies, like St. Margaret and St. Cuthbert, seem to transcend the traditional bounds of humanity and border on the divine. These associations—both positive and negative—demonstrate an uneasiness about what constitutes a human body and more importantly what it means to be human. Disability and disability studies provide spaces for texts and readers to explore with these issues.
Published today at punctum books, Cameron Hunt McNabb edits an expansive historical and textual resource on disability in medieval Western Europe with the Medieval Disability Sourcebook. This project is available in print and digital open access at punctumbooks.com.
The field of disability studies significantly contributes to contemporary discussions of the marginalization of and social justice for individuals with disabilities. However, what of disability in the past? The Medieval Disability Sourcebook: Western Europe explores what medieval texts have to say about disability, both in their own time and for the present.
This interdisciplinary volume on medieval Europe combines historical records, medical texts, and religious accounts of saints’ lives and miracles, as well as poetry, prose, drama, and manuscript images to demonstrate the varied and complicated attitudes medieval societies had about disability. Far from recording any monolithic understanding of disability in the Middle Ages, these contributions present a striking range of voices—to, from, and about those with disabilities—and such diversity only confirms how disability permeated (and permeates) every aspect of life.
The Medieval Disability Sourcebook is designed for use inside the undergraduate or graduate classroom or by scholars interested in learning more about medieval Europe as it intersects with the field of disability studies. Most texts are presented in modern English, though some are preserved in Middle English and many are given in side-by-side translations for greater study. Each entry is prefaced with an academic introduction to disability within the text as well as a bibliography for further study. This sourcebook is the first in a proposed series focusing on disability in a wide range of premodern cultures, histories, and geographies.
Cameron Hunt McNabb is Assoc. Professor of English at Southeastern University. Her primary research interests include disability studies and early drama, and she has published in numerous journals, including Early Theatre, Neophilologus, Studies in Philology, and Pedagogy. Her chapter “Staging Disability in Medieval Drama” is forthcoming in the Ashgate Research Companion to Medieval Disability Studies (Routledge, 2018). She is a strong advocate for undergraduate research, and she and her students have contributed two entries to the Medieval Disability Glossary.
Danielle Allor, Maura Bailey, Lucy Barnhouse, Autumn Battista, Paul A. Broyles, Eliza Buhrer, M.W. Bychowski, Karen M. Cook, Ashley Corliss, Leigh Ann Craig, Sarah Edwards Obenauf, Will Eggers, Heide Estes, Moira Fitzgibbons, Anne Galanaud, Pierre Galanaud, Rachael Gillibrand, Eammon Gosselin, Brandon W. Hawk, Ármann Jakobsson, Kolfinna Jónatansdóttir, Anne M. Koenig, Rebecca Laughlin, Kara Larson Maloney, Cameron Hunt McNabb, Sara Moller, Frank M. Napolitano, Leah Pope Parker, Tory V. Pearman, Alicia Protze, Alison Purnell, Will Rogers, Marit Ronen, Rose A. Sawyer, Julie Singer, Kisha G. Tracy, Kurt Schreyer, Shayne Simahk, Taylor Specker, Alyssa Stanton, Jeffery G. Stoyanoff, Kellyn Welch