The field of Critical Disability Studies (CDS) includes a diverse range of methodologies for the ethical re-evaluation of literary texts. CDS has a growing relationship with Romanticism, addressing themes such as sublime aesthetics and poetic symbolism. A major function of CDS is the re-reading of texts in terms authors’ lived experience of disability, and the social environments in which they produced. To that extent, CDS is a continuation of the process of re-historicizing Romantic literature. Complementary to the historicizing function, a range of more conceptual theories continues to impact on Romantic studies, opening up new possibilities for reading and scholarship. This article attempts to provide a critical overview of this ongoing work, and a sense of its diverse and at times contradictory nature. Concepts and theories for discussion include disability aesthetics, deformity, metaphor, and the Romantic fragment. The article includes a close analysis of Byron’s poem “Prometheus”, which connects revolutionary myth with ideas of pain and silence, demonstrating the fundamental contribution made by ideas of disability to literary Romanticism. CDS can help to disrupt the canonical and institutional nature of Romanticism, and to include dissident voices—not only the witness of the non-normatively embodied, but of difference in general.
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