Writing the "Self-Determined" Life: Representing the Self in Disability Narratives by Leonard Kriegel and Nancy Mairs

by Haugen, Hayley Mitchell

Abstract (Summary)
Leonard Kriegel and Nancy Mairs’ autobiographical works can be read as counternarratives to American literature’s and American society’s dominant discourse on disability. Chapters in this study examine Kriegel’s use of the quest narrative as a means for creating a heroic autobiographical self; his use of masculine imagery to counter stereotypes of disability and emasculation; the family’s role as a microcosm of society, working to construct – for better or worse – both Kriegel and Mairs’ sense of themselves as ill and disabled; Mairs’ relationship between her body and her identity, and how her essays work to counter the American cultural assumption that ill and disabled women are asexual or otherwise less than functional human beings; and, finally, the ways in which Mairs’ essays have served as her vehicle for political engagement with American culture. Ultimately, through insisting that their work maintain a focus on their singular, very individual identities, Kriegel and Mairs achieve visibility within American culture and eventually come to enlightened understandings of themselves as they are and not how American society has traditionally viewed the disabled.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Ohio University

School Location:USA - Ohio

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:american literature autobiography memoir disability polio multiple sclerosis leonard kriegel nancy mairs counternarrative


Date of Publication:01/01/2006

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