Vivian Delchamps deposited Disability and “Chastened Merriment”: Queer Joy in Theodore Winthrop’s Cecil Dreeme in the group 2021 MLA Convention on MLA Commons 2 weeks, 2 days ago
Theodore Winthrop’s novel Cecil Dreeme, first published after Winthrop died in 1861—is, according to Christopher Looby, quote, “a very queer book indeed,” endquote. Here I argue that the novel offers significant opportunities for study of disability, queer desire, and joy from nineteenth-century America to today. To explore the relationships between queer and crip joy, I focus on a rich scene of oyster eating that follows Cecil Dreeme’s emotional crisis. The scene centers queer intimacy, bodily pleasure, and gastronomical delight, providing relief from the restraints of compulsory able-mindedness and compulsory heterosexuality found elsewhere in the world of the novel. I show that the novel crafts restorative scenes that reaffirm joy for characters who experience mental illnesses that result from marginalizing treatment.