Unruly Bodies

Life Writing by Women with Disabilities

By Susannah B. Mintz

264 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5830-1
    Published: September 2007
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-7763-0
    Published: January 2009

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The first critical study of personal narrative by women with disabilities, Unruly Bodies examines how contemporary writers use life writing to challenge cultural stereotypes about disability, gender, embodiment, and identity.

Combining the analyses of disability and feminist theories, Susannah Mintz discusses the work of eight American autobiographers: Nancy Mairs, Lucy Grealy, Georgina Kleege, Connie Panzarino, Eli Clare, Anne Finger, Denise Sherer Jacobson, and May Sarton. Mintz shows that by refusing inspirational rhetoric or triumph-over-adversity narrative patterns, these authors insist on their disabilities as a core--but not diminishing--aspect of identity. They offer candid portrayals of shame and painful medical procedures, struggles for the right to work or to parent, the inventive joys of disabled sex, the support and the hostility of family, and the losses and rewards of aging. Mintz demonstrates how these unconventional stories challenge feminist idealizations of independence and self-control and expand the parameters of what counts as a life worthy of both narration and political activism. Unruly Bodies also suggests that atypical life stories can redefine the relation between embodiment and identity generally.

About the Author

Susannah B. Mintz is associate professor of English at Skidmore College. She is author of Threshold Poetics: Milton and Intersubjectivity.
For more information about Susannah B. Mintz, visit the Author Page.


"A much-needed contribution to the intersection of disability theory and feminist autobiography studies."--Women's Studies Quarterly

"Elegantly written and free of jargon, Unruly Bodies refuses the reductive understanding often applied to disability stories. By including previously unrecognized literary voices, particularly within women's studies and minority studies, it is an important resource for literary critics, teachers, and scholars in the developing field of disability studies. I want people to read this book."--Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Emory University

“Susannah Mintz's Unruly Bodies furnishes a timely appraisal of a somewhat neglected body of literature: life writing by women with disabilities. Working with a few carefully selected contemporary writers, Mintz explores how women varying in age, sexual orientation, and social class have responded to disability in different modes of life writing. Her approach is theoretically sophisticated; her analysis smart and illuminating; her writing is lucid, supple, and accessible. The book should appeal to students of women's studies, life writing studies, disability studies, and to the educated general reader.”--G. Thomas Couser, Hofstra University