Class of 1978 Pavilion
Sixth floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library
This talk examines the role that vocal disability played in eighteenth-century political discourse surrounding the exercise of governmental power by looking closely at two stutterers on opposite ends of the political and social spectra—King George III and the radical orator and elocutionist John Thelwall. Using contemporary disability theory as a critical frame, the essay explores the ways in which disabled elocution emerged in late Georgian Britain to become a politically significant motif as evidenced by a range of works of written and visual satire. By their very materiality within a print medium, I argue, these works mark and render visible disabled bodies otherwise transparent as speech becomes codified through print. By focusing on the manner in which the era’s representations of and reactions to disabled speech instantiated a system of compulsory fluency, my talk will demonstrate how disability operated as a governing trope in Georgian-era debates over government sovereignty, political access, national identity, and freedom of expression. The talk is part of a larger project traces the relationship between nascent elocutionary theories of the Enlightenment and disability in Anglo-American culture.
Jared S. Richman received his MA from the University of York (UK) and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. His teaching and research centers on the literature and culture of Britain’s Long Eighteenth Century (1660-1832). He teaches courses on satire, British Romanticism, radicalism, the Gothic tradition, Atlantic studies, and comics and graphic narrative. Professor Richman’s work has appeared in such journals as European Romantic Review, Eighteenth-Century Studies, and Eighteenth Century Theory and Interpretation. He has published on the works of William Blake, the fiction of Charlotte Smith, and the poetry of Anna Seward. He is currently finishing a manuscript entitled “Transatlantic Realms”: British Romanticism and the Idea of America, 1780-1832. Professor Richman’s research has been supported by fellowships from the Library of Congress, the Lewis Walpole Library, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Chemical Heritage Foundation, and was recently a fellow at the Huntington Library. His latest project traces the relationship between nascent elocutionary theories of the Enlightenment and disability in Anglo-American culture.