Graduation Year

Spring 2012

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Humanities: Interdisciplinary Studies in Culture

Reader 1

Emily Cuming

Reader 2

Gail Lee Abrams

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© 2012 Jenna N. Tico


This thesis looks into autobiographical representations of disability and illness in life writing, a flexible form of creative nonfiction, and Contact Improvisation, a postmodern dance form, to argue how the structure of representation must incorporate the physical and emotional/intellectual in order to convey the necessary overlap between the mind and body.

Chapter One looks at Plaintext, by Nancy Mairs, to analyze the way her sporadic writing style mirrors the unpredictability of her multiple sclerosis. Chapter Two focuses on Autobiography of a Face, by Lucy Grealy, and examines how the irregularity of the author's face--and the various roles that she takes on throughout her life--undermine the idea of any singular self in life-writing and otherwise. Analysis of Grealy's text is paired with Truth and Beauty, a memoir written by the author's best friend, Ann Patchett, in order to demonstrate the linguistic/cultural distinction--but significant overlap--between dependency and independence. Chapter Three expands upon this idea in relation to disabled dance companies, and highlights Contact Improvisation--a dance form based on the transfer of weight--as a revolutionary forum that incorporates mind and body in an "intratext" of representation. Because it is based on exchange of impulse and a blurring of bodies, CI allows for a fluid negotiation between multiple identities, accommodating the moment-to-moment nature of living with or without a disability.