How to Explain This and The Construction of Disability in British Female Poetry in the 1990s-2010s: How Susan Wicks and Jo Shapcott Typify the New Generation's Attention to Body and Difference.

  • Eleanor Ward

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis is in two parts. The first section is a poetry collection called How to Explain This, and the second section is a critical essay that explores the questions of how Susan Wicks and Jo Shapcott typify the New Generation's attention to body and difference. My critical essay takes its cues from the academic fields of Cultural Disability Studies and Medical Humanities, and understands disabled identities to be both constructed and porous. It considers the influence of cultural scholars such as Judith Butler, who influenced how we consider the fixity of boundaries and identities. By concentrating on the collections Open Diagnosis by Susan Wicks and Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott, it argues that both poets borrow from the context of Disability Rights and Culture, as well as the attention to the body that was popular among The New Generation of Poets in the 1990s-2010s. This period of social and legislative changes in British law meant that the attention on disabled bodies was increasing. Wicks and Shapcott's collections incorporate the heightened visibility of disabled bodies in this period. They write authoritatively about their experience of illness and disability by encompassing multiple cultural, academic and legislative perspectives. Additionally, by using scientific language and imagery Wicks and Shapcott present collections that incorporate a variety of perspectives on disability distinct to the strict demarcation of identities found in critical work. Instead Wicks and Shapcott rely on the use of myth and culture to present rounded and complex illustrations of "deviant" bodies. How to Explain This is divided into three sections and explores the interconnected themes of love, identity and disability through a series of sequences. This poetry collection incorporates similar ideas to the critical work, rejecting simple and straightforward identities. Instead, How to Explain This considers how disability is affected by relationships, family and other life events, in poems which construct and reflect on difference and stigma.
Date of Award31 Dec 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorJohn Mcauliffe (Supervisor) & Sarah Collins (Supervisor)


  • Identity
  • New Generation
  • Poetry
  • Cultural Disability Studies
  • Susan Wicks
  • Jo Shapcott
  • Disability Studies
  • Medical Humanities

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