The child's stuttering mouth and the ruination of language in Jordan Scott's blert and Shelley Jackson's Riddance
stammering, stuttering, Dysfluency Studies, Jordan Scott, Shelley Jackson, literary criticism
In recent years, the interdisciplinary field that Chris Eagle has called “Dysfluency Studies” (“Introduction” 4) has questioned cultural expressions of speech disorders that rely on stuttering or stammering as a metaphor for other mental, aesthetic, political, and affective problems. Literary, cultural, and critical expressions of stutters and stammers (some literal, others metaphorical) are notoriously difficult to contextualize because they pop up everywhere in our writing. We desperately want to make the world and its language systems stutter for various aesthetic and political reasons. Echoing the foundational work of disability scholars David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder on the concepts of narrative prosthesis, Eagle writes that “without exception in modern literature, speech pathologies are ‘diagnosed’ metaphorically as the symptom of some character flaw such as excessive nervousness or weakness, or treated as a symbol for the general tendency of language toward communicative breakdown, ambiguity, polysemy, misunderstanding, etc.” (Dysfluencies 11–12). Eagle’s extensive study of the “neurolinguistic turn” in modern fiction by authors such as Herman Melville, Emile Zola, James Joyce, Robert Graves, James Joyce, Philip Roth, Gail Jones, Jonathan Lethem, and David Mitchell, among others, fills a gap in literary analysis of speech dysfluencies left by Marc Shell’s Stutter, which explores the aesthetic qualities of speech dysfluencies in literature and popular culture. Shell and Eagle’s studies respectively advocate for better cultural representations of people who stutter and challenge powerful biomedical beliefs that dysfluent voices are by default in need of correction or cure. At the same time, the interdisciplinary field of Dysfluency Studies that Shell and Eagle have inaugurated recognizes the stutter or stammer as an embodied expression of linguistic and communicative diversity and challenges the normative time frames that govern our collective desires for vocal fluency.
Martin, Daniel. "The Child's Stuttering Mouth and the Ruination of Language in Jordan Scott's blert and Shelley Jackson's Riddance." ESC: English Studies in Canada, vol. 46 no. 2, 2020, p. 215-233. https://doi.org/10.1353/esc.2020.a903553
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