The wound at the heart of vision: fraught masculinities, marked bodies, and the subject of disability

Thumbnail Image

Persistent link to this item

View Statistics

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


The wound at the heart of vision: fraught masculinities, marked bodies, and the subject of disability

Published Date




Thesis or Dissertation


This dissertation examines disability's presence in World War II-era literature and film in the context of broader cultural anxieties regarding masculinity and the place of the American man at midcentury. Because disability disrupts understandings of the body and sexuality in both military settings and society at large even today, this dissertation sheds light on contemporary debates surrounding disabled veterans, connecting these issues to a broad crisis of American masculinity that emerged following the Second World War. While scholars in disability studies have often read disability in literature and film primarily as a problematic signifier for otherness, and psychoanalytic film critics have seen disability more broadly as a representation of lack itself, this dissertation argues that neither of these positions fully accounts for the role disability assumes in literary and cinematic texts produced in the United States following World War II. In particular, this work deals with texts depicting a sudden onset of disability and its impact on the sense of self for person whose identity was, at least in part, predicated on the possession of an `able' body, These texts demonstrate how an unexpected injury transforms a subject's body from `able' to `disabled' and, as such, shifts the individual's subject position from within the gendering matrix to one that exists outside that matrix, making visible the structures enabling our shared notions of heteronormative masculinity. Returning home from war, disabled American GIs learned to live with broken bodies presenting a constant reminder of the lasting impact of wartime violence otherwise absent in America's pristine postwar landscape; these men faced particularly pronounced difficulties reintegrating into postwar American society, due largely to the destabilizing effect of physical disability on traditional, heteronormative notions of masculinity. Film and literary representations of disabled veterans--which stage a sudden loss of masculinity in a subject that once epitomized maleness through his physicality--demonstrate the fragile nature of all masculinities in the postwar era.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. June 2013. Major: English. Advisor: Siobhan S. Craig. 1 computer file (PDF); iv, 221 pages.

Related to




Series/Report Number

Funding information

Isbn identifier

Doi identifier

Previously Published Citation

Suggested citation

Kanyusik, William Bradley. (2013). The wound at the heart of vision: fraught masculinities, marked bodies, and the subject of disability. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

Content distributed via the University Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor. By using these files, users agree to the Terms of Use. Materials in the UDC may contain content that is disturbing and/or harmful. For more information, please see our statement on harmful content in digital repositories.