Rosemary Garland Thompson
February 27, 2002
Rosemarie Garland Thomson combines feminist theory and American Studies to offer a humanistic critique of what she identifies as the "extraordinary" body, the body that differs from the culturally constructed norm or normate. Her 1997 book--Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature--explores, among other things, the enormous popular appeal of the "freak" show in the United States between l840 and l940 when the "freak" became medicalized, privatized, and pathologized. Of the "shows" in general, she suggests, "These collective cultural rituals provided dilemmas of classification and definition upon which the throng of spectators could hone the skills needed to tame world and self in the ambitious project of American self-making" (59). She has become a leading figure in the development of Disability Studies in the Humanities.