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Professor Richman to Study Elocution and Disability

Associate Professor of English Jared Richman has been awarded a fellowship for a project that traces literary constructions of - and relations between - political subjectivity and forms of obstructed speech. The fellowship is jointly sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association and the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, one of the premier humanities research libraries in North America.

Richman's project, (In)audible Bodies and (In)visible Voices: Elocution and Disability in the Long Eighteenth Century, will focus on the condition that some 18th-century elocutionists called "speechlessness," that is, stuttering or stammering, and will show ways in which contemporary ideas about this condition were politically inflected. His project highlights the correlation between emergent research in early modern disability studies and critical approaches to that era's vibrant political discourse.

The Huntington Library's extensive archive of early modern tracts on medicine, rhetoric, and, in particular, performance history and theory allows him to establish an essential prehistory for the elocutionary discourse. Last summer Richman received a fellowship at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. for work on the project.

Richman, who will be taking up residence at the library during Spring 2016 while on sabbatical, hopes to expand upon the work on disability theory and culture conducted by such pioneers in the field as Lennard Davis, Helen Deutsch, Rosemarie Garland Thomson, and Robert McRuer. In doing so he hopes to better understand modern attitudes towards communication disorders by tracing historical representations of the disabled subject and that subject's place within the shifting political and social hierarchies of early modern Britain.

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