Medical sociologist Arthur Frank argues in his foundational The Wounded Storyteller that an ideal illness narrative accepts contingency and acknowledges that “the human body, for all its resilience, is fragile” (49). About her own illness experience, Audre Lorde famously argues that our greatest strength stems - paradoxically, perhaps - from our greatest vulnerability (Cancer Journals 14). Both of these perspectives suggest that resilience is finite, and that recognizing as much can be itself empowering. This panel therefore wonders: what potential does fragility have in a world rife with environmental disasters, personal and structural traumas and other catastrophes that all seem to demand resilience? How have texts from throughout the twentieth century conceptualized fragility as a response to such conditions?
We welcome papers that discuss how diverse literatures have depicted fragility, as well as ones that interrogate cultural understandings of resilience. We aim for our panel to probe whether or not contingency and vulnerability - as realities of the human experience - must be overcome or if they themselves can harbor strength, power, survival and even joy. What sorts of narratives accept and acknowledge fragility, and what might they accomplish by doing so?
Topics may include:
Trauma and Healing
Experiences of Gender/Race/Class/Ability