Professor Elizabeth B. Bearden has been selected as a 2023 Guggenheim Fellow in Early Modern Studies. She joins 171 other scholars, scientists, writers, and artists from around the country, all chosen by a rigorous application and peer review process out of almost 2,500 applicants.
Successful applicants are appointed on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise. Created and initially funded in 1925 by Senator Simon and Olga Guggenheim in memory of their son John Simon Guggenheim, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has sought since its inception to “further the development of scholars and artists by assisting them to engage in research in any field of knowledge and creation in any of the arts, under the freest possible conditions.”
Professor Bearden’s current project, titled “Crip Authority: Disability and the Art of Consolation in the Renaissance” (under contract, U Michigan P), builds on insights she gleaned from her award-winning monograph Monstrous Kinds: Body, Space, and Narrative in Renaissance Representations of Disability (U of Michigan P 2019). Holding close to James Charlton’s call to disability activists to advocate for “nothing about us without us!”, this project brings to light premodern disability narratives, or first-person narrative accounts of the lived experience of disability. It considers how early modern writers with disabilities draw on the ancient genre of consolation—texts that articulate advantages in adversities including mental and physical disability—to enhance their writerly authority. Whether it is Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616) biting back at satirists who mock his war wound or John Milton (1608–1674) deflecting his contemporaries’ derision of his blindness, Renaissance writers use the art of consolation to transgressively reappropriate the mental and physical disabilities that their society frequently scorned to produce what we now call disability gain, or the idea that disability is productive rather than simply a problem that needs solving. Bearden coins the phrase “crip authority” to define this self-authorization derived from disability disclosure and consolation.
You can read the full press release from the Guggenheim Foundation here. Congratulations, Professor Bearden!