"Spastic in time" time and disability in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five
The article demonstrates how the insights of literary critical disability studies can help to refocus our reading of Kurt Vonnegut's 1969 novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, away from a diagnosis of the disability of its main character and toward an understanding of the ways in which the work disables normative assumptions about the social body and its functions. The novel's "schizophrenic" temporal structure is not reflective of the temporality of mental illness, as a diagnostic reading would have it, but rather exposes the ways in which normative time and temporality have been complicit in diagnosing and disenfranchising disabled people. Vonnegut's disabling of the entire temporal structure of Slaughterhouse-Five draws attention to ways in which different paces, rhythms, and tempos can be accommodated in narrative; yet, criticism has persisted in meeting this narrative accommodation with clinical distrust and ironic detachment. Reading Billy Pilgrim as diagnosable with a clinically recognizable disease and forcing the text to reveal a true nature underneath the illusions and delusions of both character and author is a way of disavowing Vonnegut's most radical claim: that health, truth, and even reality itself are sociological constructs.
|Journal||Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies|
Barrows, A. (2018). "Spastic in time" time and disability in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five. Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies, 12(4), 391–405. doi:10.3828/jlcds.2018.32