Lourdes's Monsters: A Critical Disability Studies Reading of the Spectacle of Disability

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Emile Zola’s 1894 novel Lourdes, J.-K. Huysmans’ 1906 travel narrative Les Foules de Lourdes and François Mauriac’s 1932 novella, Pèlerins all seek to represent and interpret the “monstrous” bodies of ill and disabled pilgrims who visited the town of Lourdes. This article uses Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s critical-disability-studies interpretation of the starer-staree relationship to explore the creative potential of the presence of disability in the literary text. All the texts under discussion are structured around a “quest-for-cure” narrative which subscribes to the outdated “medical” model of disability. Yet their narrators’ interest in disabled bodies leads to a set of powerful aesthetic encounters where narrators and readers are invited the celebrate disability for its own sake.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-183
Number of pages13
JournalAustralian Journal of French Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


  • critical disability studies
  • Lourdes
  • Emile Zola
  • J.-K. Huysmans
  • Francois Mauriac
  • French literature

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