• Getting the Yips: Health and Superability Thrown a Curve in The Art of Fielding

    Michelle Rabe (see profile)
    2021 MLA Convention
    Disability studies, Sports
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    Modern Language Association Convention
    Conf. Org.:
    Conf. Loc.:
    Conf. Date:
    January 7-10, 2021
    Sport, Posthumanism
    Permanent URL:
    In Disability Theory (2008), Tobin Siebers theorizes the “ideology of ability,” or the default sociocultural desire for able-bodiedness, that governs our conceptions of bodily norms, health, and wellness. The ideology of ability “defines the baseline by which humanness is determined, setting the measure of body and mind that gives or denies human status to individual persons” and, thus, excludes and stigmatizes injury, illness, and disability. Contemporary sports narratives about athletic pursuits exaggerate this ideology of ability by promoting the athletic body as the pinnacle of physical health and ability and evaluating all other bodies in comparison to it. Thus, when the athletic form is threatened by that which it supposedly stands in stark contrast to—injury, illness, and disability—the ideology of ability and its hierarchical assumptions about what bodies are supposed to be or strive to become is upended. Chad Harbach’s novel The Art of Fielding (2011), about an all-star college baseball shortstop who suddenly and mysteriously gets a case of “the yips” and loses his ability to throw from short to first base in games, narrativizes this very type of ability loss and the physical and mental stress that results. It, along with testimonies of nonfictional athletes who developed the yips, offers a demonstration of how ingrained the ideology of ability is in our cultural consideration of physical health and ability. However, it also reveals that the apparently subconscious consideration of bodily movement and health actually overlooks the complex conditioning that informs any bodily act. “Getting the Yips: Health and Superability Thrown a Curve in The Art of Fielding” leverages disability theory to dismantle the ideology of ability as it is exemplified in sports narratives about those medically and socioculturally considered to be at the epitome of physical health, superabled athletes.
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    3 years ago
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