August 11, 2020

Foss Lectures in Liverpool

On Wednesday, March 1, Professor of English Chris Foss presented a 45-minute lecture as part of the Disability and the Emotions Seminar Series hosted by the Centre for Culture and Disability Studies at Liverpool Hope University.

His talk, “‘For the future let those who come to play with me have no hearts’: Dis/enabling Narratives and the Affect of Pity in Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Birthday of the Infanta,’” Foss argued that Wilde’s fairy tale about the death of a performing dwarf at the Spanish court may appear mired in damaging stereotype and maudlin melodrama, but it nonetheless suggests more progressive emotionally based possibilities for sympathy, acceptance and even identification rather than paternalistic pity. Wilde’s text invites readers to recognize its seemingly simultaneous manipulation of the narrative toward a reliance upon and a critique of the consumption of pain necessary to the workings of the affect of pity. It further forces readers to acknowledge their own complicity in this pity and pain, ultimately revealing crucial complexities inherent in such emotional responses to disability.