I came to Maren Tova Linett's Bodies of Modernism: Physical Disability in Transatlantic Modernist Literature because of my deep interest in how people tell stories about disability, and in the ways that disabled people figure as protagonists in stories. I was well-rewarded for the time I spent with this book, finding myself entranced and enriched by Linett's careful, detailed unpacking of representations of physical disability and its metaphorical associations across a wide range of modernist literature. The literary narrative and experimentation that is the focus of Bodies of Modernism reveals writers actively building, carving out, and attempting new ways to tell stories. As Linett explains, because modernist authors "wanted to break with the form of the traditional novel, they connected their attempts to reshape narrative to deformity. They therefore inquired into the metaphoric meanings disabilities had come to bear, often challenging normative understandings of embodiment" (2).

But Linett's close readings also show that even as the modernist writers examined here forge new paths, they are nevertheless products of their cultural context and environment. The incisive analyses cutting across the five central chapters of the book reveal powerful ways that metaphoric associations with disability emerge and became engrained in broader cultural and collective consciousness. As a consequence, Bodies of Modernism demonstrates how the tools of literary analysis can connect all of us to the stories that shape our lives. In what follows, I'll first give a general overview of the book, and then suggest some ways that Bodies of Modernism lays significant groundwork for future literary disability studies scholarship.

In her introduction, Linett names her motivating questions as "What metaphoric meanings accrue to disabled characters in fiction? How does the presence of disability shape the trajectory of the narrative in which it appears? How do texts enlist disability to grapple with broader themes such as subjectivity, sexuality, and knowledge? [and] How does disability affect the formal properties of texts?" (1). To answer these questions, she performs close readings of a wide range of canonical modernist texts alongside some lesser-known stories and novels that all feature characters with a range of different physical disabilities. Each of the book's five major chapters focuses in on a particular type of disability and its treatment across multiple literary texts. Linett begins in chapter 1, "Mobility and Sexuality," with mobility impairments and their relationship to a character's sexuality, arguing that the narrative arcs of female characters can be understood in terms of an inverse, "wave-like dynamic, wherein disability recedes to make way for sexuality but then returns with force" (21). In chapter 2, "Blindness and Intimacy," Linett shows how modernist authors explore interests in "how our inner lives relate to our bodies and to the world outside the self" through creating representations of blindness. Her analyses here unpack how blind characters make choices that offer possibilities for closeness and relationship with others, thus challenging associations of blindness with ignorance. Chapter 3, "Deafness, Communication, and Knowledge" takes up relationships between deafness and knowledge, showing how texts that represent deaf characters often use deafness as a metaphorical way of conveying relationships to knowledge and/or knowing. Linett returns to both blindness and deafness in chapter 4, "Knowledge Redux: Sensory Disability in Ulysses," through attention to the blind stripling and the deaf waiter Pat, unearthing complex twists that differentiate Joyce's representations from those analyzed in chapters 2 and 3. This chapter is lively and fun, attuned to the rhythm and allusions of Joyce's work. In the book's fifth and final chapter, "Deformity and Modernist Form," Linett focuses on physical deformity and the shape of fiction, taking readers on a journey through novels that feature characters whose bodies are described as deformed, but which also offer potential for thinking about narrative itself as deformed. These readings ultimately show that deformity itself offered a means for authors to reflect on formal innovations in literary narrative.

All of Linett's chapters are worth careful attention for the way they painstakingly demonstrate how to read carefully with and against the grain to understand intricate tapestries of disability and its range of metaphorical associations. But where I found myself really leaning forward, underlining nearly every sentence, were the moments when Linett pulled back the curtain a bit not only to perform a close reading of the texts under study, but to show the backdrop of criticism and cultural context that informed literary textual production and reception during the early parts of the 20th century. She does this most fully in Chapter 3, as she describes some of the historical context surrounding deafness in order to describe ableist assumptions about spoken language that pervaded the modernist period (86-91).These assumptions underlie modernist writers' efforts for figuring new ways to tell stories about communication and interpersonal relationships.

Linett's close readings of Eudora Welty's "The Key," Carson McCullers's The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and Elizabeth Bowen's Eva Trout thus draw significantly on this cultural backdrop to understand how each author (unsurprisingly?) reproduces forms societal ableism towards deaf people through their constructions of deaf characters. To literary disability studies scholars, this will be a familiar story, but Linett also observes how even contemporary literary criticism itself can replicate the ableist assumptions within these texts. For example, in her analysis of "The Key," Linett describes a scene when a character drops a key next to Albert, one of the central deaf characters. When he discovers the key, Albert's reaction is to assume it must have materialized out of nowhere, presumably because he didn't hear it fall to the ground. On this, Linett observes, "In the criticism of this story I have not seen anyone mention how ludicrous this is. Indeed, several critics make clear their acceptance of the false link between deafness and the inability to know" (94). Through her close readings, then, Linett not only identifies the ableism within literary narratives, but also pushes back against literary critics' unquestioned uptake of these ableist assumptions. I was enthralled with her reading of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, which shows how Singer, the central deaf and mute character, has relationships with other characters, but also that all of those relationships are solely portrayed as beneficial to the hearing people with whom he interacts, not to him. Linett's reading here shows that deafness in McCullers's novel does not have to inherently mean isolation, but is instead "a specific, historically bound construction of deafness emerging from an oralist culture" (105).

Throughout the book, Linett persistently recognizes ableist critical readings of the texts under question while also continually challenging her readers to develop better understandings of the complexity of physical and sensory disabilities as they were treated during the modernist period. Indeed, the modernist writers that Linett analyzes were intensely interested in embodiment and relationships between body and mind, in ways of representing interior states and experiences. While Linett's focus is not on mental disability, mental disability nevertheless surfaces in a number of places throughout the book. Because of my own interest in thinking about disability broadly, and in thinking about how disability, as an amorphous, always-shifting category, takes on new and different meanings at different times and places, in these moments I often found myself reading against the grain of Bodies of Modernism a bit here, asking about what is gained—and lost—through a focus on physical disability. Of course, the more carefully we try to define disability, the more convoluted and contorted our definitions can become, and the harder it can be to draw a clear line around what is and what is not disability, about what disability means to bodies and minds. So any attempt to try and definitively explain why these types of disabilities and not others belong in this book is in and of itself a bit of a futile exercise.

Staying centered on physical disability enables Linett to trace shifts and patterns that reveal cultural assumptions about particular disabilities—deafness, blindness, mobility impairments, and physical deformity. And while there are numerous places throughout the book where Linett attends to potential links between mental disability and physical disability (e.g., in chapter 5, analyzing Olive Moore's Spleen, she notes Ruth's association of her son's club feet with mental disability), she does not explore those in depth. What we learn about patterns of metaphorical association and new ways of representing disability is squarely focused on physical disability. Within each chapter, I'm persuaded by the patterns Linett exposes for our awareness through her carefully chosen texts and analyses. And yet, I wonder about these associations, how attending to mental disability and its relationships with, around, and to physical disability might enrich or challenge some of the readings shown here. This is less a criticism of Linett's book and more an opening for new directions that might emerge building on the masterful analyses in Bodies of Modernism. Ultimately, this is a book worth reading if you are interested in how we tell stories about disability, one that shows disability as a rich, complex, and necessary facet of writers' attention to embodiment and the relationships between inner states and lived experiences.

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