Scapple, Exam Prep, and Victorian Novels

In my many and varied attempts to think through not only the themes I’ve identified as significant for my dissertation, but also the many and varied themes my exam reading is presenting me, I’ve found myself turning to Scapple again and again. Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 7.44.57 PM

I may be late to the mind-mapping game, but if being late means I get to make use of this software (which came out late last year), I’m okay with that.

Mindmapping has been especially helpful when, as in the screenshot above, I’m trying to identify the ways in which an under-theorized (largely unrecognized) form of the novel functions throughout the century.

It has also been very helpful in thinking through the ways in which representations of disability intersect with this form:

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 7.49.11 PM

Archival studies scholars such as Sara White (see her article, “Crippling the Archives: Negotiating Notions of Disability in Appraisal and Arrangement and Description” in the 2012 Sprint/Summer volume of American Archivist) have noted that archives explicitly documenting disability and people with disabilities are notably rare (109-110). So too, I think, are explanations of the ways in which archives construct–or, can be used to construct–disability, particularly in the nineteenth century. While scholars such as Alice Dreger (see “Jarring Bodies:  Thoughts on the Display of Unusual Anatomies” in the Winter 2000  volume of Perspectives in Biology and Medicine) have addressed the ways in which various print and media construct disability during the nineteenth century, few have really considered archives as a potential site of such construction (or of potential reconstruction in the hands of the disabled themselves). Yet, archives themselves play a role in the construction of society (at least, according to theorists such as Carolyn Steedman and Antoinette Burton) and therefore must be at least partially implicated in the social construction of disability (see Michael Oliver’s The Politics of Disablement ). Or, so I think at this stage of my project. Accordingly, part of my project is to begin addressing this gap, starting with imbricated novelistic representations of archives and disability.

Literally mapping out the function of what I call “archival novels” and the ways in which these novels represent disability has helped make complex nineteenth-century representation more accessible to these twenty-first-century eyes.


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