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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Intersection of Feminism and Disability Theory in Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar


One effect of the increasing interest in disability as an identity category over the past few decades has been the examination of representations of disability in literature. Although Sylvia Plath’s 1963 novel The Bell Jar is not typically read from the perspective of disability theory, Esther’s identity is shaped not just by her experiences as a woman, but as a disabled woman. For this reason, Esther’s experiences cannot be fully explained by either feminism or disability theory independently; some combination of the two is needed. While scholars have long advocated the lens of feminism in reading The Bell Jar, the implications of disability theory for the novel have not been explored.

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