Dr. Jason Farr

Assistant Professor of English, Marquette University


Mute Subjects: Toward a Nonverbal Eighteenth Century


Monday, November 9, 2020

5:00–6:00 PM CT

Eighteenth-century authors often rely on ableist tropes about muteness and cognitive impairment. However, these same authors also depict nonverbal communication via facial expression, gesture, and sign language. Hence, these authors also convey nonverbal characters’ sensibility, a corporeal register of intellect and emotion typically associated with genteel and aristocratic white men by eighteenth-century moral philosophers. Through their visible exhibition of sensibility, deaf and nonverbal characters become subjects: feeling, intuiting beings who express rational thought even if they communicate in an unorthodox manner. In this talk, Jason Farr examines this phenomenon in three cases: John Bulwer’s Philocophus (1648), Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719), and Samuel Johnson’s A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland (1775).


This talk is being held by UW’s MidMod and Literatures of Early Modernity and the Renaissance (LEAR) English graduate student colloquia, and is sponsored by the Renaissance Colloquium and the Disability Studies Initiative. For further information and access to the Zoom meeting for this event, please email Andie Barrow (acbarrow@wisc.edu).