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  • Print publication year: 2017
  • Online publication date: December 2017

16 - Literary Disability Culture Imaginations at Work: An Afterword


G'niimim, zaagijig akiing

wewiib, wewini,


mino-waawiinjigaazoyeg pane.

You dance, lovers of the world

quickly, carefully

your curved strength

is a celebration!

Margaret Noodin

In this afterword, I am reflecting on creating and teaching literature with disabled people. What happens when we think about teaching literature and producing literature among groups of disabled people traditionally denied access to universities? And how can what we can learn in community settings influence university classrooms?

An afterword allows for expansiveness, for a different take than the chapters in their overview of topics. An afterword's argument can be an enactment, a poesis of merger, seeing culture creation enacted among people. So let us lean together into experience, where theoretical reflection emerges out of bodyminds in space and time together.

I am in Aotearoa/New Zealand, meeting with a group of actors from A Different Light Company, a theater group of people from Christchurch deemed to have cognitive differences, led by Tony McCaffrey. Ten of us are on an outing together: a field trip, visiting the beautiful lands of Waikuku Beach, about an hour's public bus ride above the city. Locating ourselves is important: none of us own a car, or have easy access to one, most of us can't get a driving license because of cognitive difference, and two of us use wheelchairs, including myself. Accessible buses have made outdoor access an option for us, but this recent win is constantly threatened by city governments looking to cut costs in precarious times. But for now, we can manage to find access to those regions that feature on Aotearoan tourist adventure Facebook updates: the visual poetry of long lonely beaches, picturesque estuaries, and abundant wildlife. We engage with these sites in poetry, as disabled people, most of us from a Pākehā (European or white settler) background, a few with Māori indigenous roots. Our work offers an opening into the literary imagination, into who has access to canons and readings and who is seen to be part of the citizenship of this thing called literature, with its own histories of class and gender differences (see Ria Cheyne's essay on genre fiction studies and its exclusion from literary mainstreams), and with literature's colonially inflected ways of conceiving of “text” (or subaltern speech acts, as Clare Barker's chapter shows).

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The Cambridge Companion to Literature and Disability
  • Online ISBN: 9781316104316
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