Encountering Ability: On the Relational Nature of (Human) Performance


Author: Scott DeShong
In Encountering Ability, Scott DeShong considers how ability and its correlative, disability, come into existence. Besides being articulated as physical, social, aesthetic, political, and specifically human, ability signifies and is signified such that signification itself is always in question. Thus the language of ability and the ability of language constitute discourse that undermines foundations, including any foundation for discourse or ability. Drawing on Gilles Deleuze’s theory of primary differentiation and Emmanuel Levinas’s philosophy of ethical relationality, Encountering Ability finds implications of music, theology, and cursing in the signification of ability, and also examines various literary texts, including works by Amiri Baraka and Marguerite Duras.

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Scott DeShong, Ph.D. (1994), University of Iowa, is Professor of English at Quinebaug Valley Community College. His previous publications address posthumanism, ability and disability, race, twentieth-century United States literature, and the work of Emmanuel Levinas.

Introduction: The Signification of Ability

1. Metaphysics of Ability: The Nature of Performance

2. On the Origin of (Human) Ability: Language, Possibility, and Ethics

3. The Nightmare of Health: Approaching Disability

4. Dis/ability in Black and White: The Relationality of Political Ability

5. Ability as Response and Irresponsibility: Dialogue and Struggle

6. Denatured Criticism: Ethics, Violence, Improvisation between Levinas and Baraka

7. Encountering Dis/ability in the Work of Marguerite Duras


Works Cited

About the Author

Those interested in philosophies of language and ontology; Emmanuel Levinas; Gilles Deleuze; humanist and posthumanist studies; ethics; cultural studies, in particular disability studies and race.