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Abominable virtues and cured faults : disability, deviance, and the double voice in the fiction of L.M. Montgomery



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This thesis examines the double-voiced representations of disability and illness in several works by Montgomery, the Emily trilogy (1923, 1925, 1927), the novel The Blue Castle (1926), the novella Kilmeny of the Orchard (1910), and two short stories, “The Tryst of the White Lady” (1922) and “Some Fools and a Saint” (published in 1931 but written in 1924). Although most of Montgomery’s fiction in some way discusses illness and disability, often through secondary characters with disabilities, these works in particular feature disability as a central issue and use their heroes’ and heroines’ disabilities to impel the plots. While with one voice these works comply with conventional uses of disability in the love story genre, with another they criticize those very conventions. Using disability theory to analyze the fiction’s double voice, my thesis reveals that the ambiguity created by the internal conflict in the texts evades reasserting the binary relationship which privileges ability and devalues disability. This thesis uses disability theory to examine the double-voiced representation of disability in the fiction of L.M. Montgomery. Bakhtin describes the “double voice” as an utterance which has “two speakers at the same time and expresses simultaneously two different intentions: the direct intention of the character who is speaking and the refracted intention of the author” (324). In this thesis, however, I perceive the double voice not as the difference between the voices of the speaking character or narrator and of the author’s intention. Instead, I will approach the double voice as simultaneous expressions of conflicting representations, whether or not the author intends them. These voices within the double voice internally dialogue with each other to reflect changing social attitudes toward disability. By applying disability theories, such as those by critics David Mitchell and Sharon Snyder, Susan Sontag, Martha Stoddard Holmes, and Rosemarie Garland Thomson, that assess how texts invoke disability as a literary technique, this thesis shows that the narrative structure of Montgomery’s fiction promotes the use of disability as a literary and social construct, while its subtext challenges the investment of metaphoric meaning in disability.



narrative prosthesis, normalization, dialogue



Master of Arts (M.A.)







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