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Literature and Disability: The Medical Interface in Borges and Beckett

Novillo-Corvalan, Patricia (2011) Literature and Disability: The Medical Interface in Borges and Beckett. Medical Humanities, 37 (1). pp. 38-43. ISSN 1468-215X. E-ISSN 1473-4265. (doi:10.1136/jmh.2011.007476) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:41939)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)
Official URL
http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/jmh.2011.007476

Abstract

Samuel Beckett and Jorge Luis Borges have presented 20th century literature with a distinctive gallery of solitary figures who suffer from a series of physiological ailments: invalidism, decrepitude, infirmity and blindness, as well as neurological conditions such as amnesia and autism spectrum disorders. Beckett and Borges were concerned with the dynamics between illness and creativity, the literary representation of physical and mental disabilities, the processes of remembering and forgetting, and the inevitability of death.

This article explores the depiction of physically and mentally disabled characters in Borges' Funes the Memorious (1942)—a story about an Uruguayan gaucho who has been left paralysed after a fall from a horse which simultaneously endowed him with an infallible memory and perception—and Beckett's Trilogy: Molloy (1951), Malone Dies (1951) and The Unnamable (1953). It examines the prodigious memory of Funes and the forgetful minds of Molloy and Malone with reference to influential neuropsychological studies such as Alexander Luria's twofold exploration of memory and forgetfulness in The Mind of a Mnemonist (1968) and The Man with a Shattered World (1972).

The article demonstrates that in contrast to Beckett's amnesiacs and Luria's brain-damaged patient, who are able to transcend their circumstances through cathartic writing, Borges' and Luria's mnemonic prodigies fail to achieve anything significant with their unlimited memories and remain imprisoned within their cognitive disabilities. It reveals that medical discourses can provide invaluable insights and lead to a deeper understanding of the minds and bodily afflictions of literary characters.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1136/jmh.2011.007476
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PQ Romance Literature > PQ6001 Spanish Literature
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages
Depositing User: Patricia Novillo-Corvalan
Date Deposited: 23 Jul 2014 14:40 UTC
Last Modified: 07 Feb 2020 04:06 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/41939 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Novillo-Corvalan, Patricia: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0751-1930
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