Sederi 27 — 2017
Francisco J. Borge López
María José Mora
Juan de Dios Torralbo Caballero, “‘For know, alas, I’m dumb, alas I love’: Rhetoric of disability, female agency and tragedy in ‘The Dumb Virgin’.” SEDERI 27 (2017): 167–192.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.34136/sederi.2017.8 Download PDF
This essay will focus on the two sisters of “The Dumb Virgin; or, The Force of Imagination,” addressing the crossover between disability studies, feminism and aesthetic theory. It will examine how art has the capacity to manipulate nature and how nature may be improved by the intervention of human industry. With this aesthetic duality, it will suggest that the writer reframes the concept of the ‘normal’ body, establishing a rhetoric of deformity and disability through the characters of Belvideera and Maria, both of whom overcome their natural disabilities by means of personal effort. Lastly, it will investigate the ‘misfortunes’ of several characters, paying particular attention to the educated nature of the two protagonists and how this poses a threat to the established order of society. The conclusion to be drawn from this is that their challenge to the social construct is directly responsible for the tragic climax of the narrative.
Keywords: Aphra Behn; “The Dumb Virgin”; female agency; rhetoric of disability and deformity; Restoration literature.
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