Monday workshop
Monday, October 14, 2019 - 3:30pm

Cohen 337

"Dorothy Brett's 'Ear Machines': Disability, Technology, and Self-Representation"


British deaf painter Dorothy Eugénie Brett (1882-1977) is well-known among literary circles for her association with the artistic and literary members of the Bloomsbury Group who transformed the modernist landscape of British culture. While biographers have portrayed Brett as a minor figure and commentator on the famous people around her, none have sufficiently explored her lived experiences of deafness, including the range of acoustic technologies she relied on. Nor have they explored Brett’s self-representations of disability in photographs and paintings. This paper examines some of Brett’s various hearing devices, which she frequently referred to as her “ear machines”—trumpets, carbon aids, auricles, vacuum tube hearing aids, and transistor hearing aids—to perceive how she leveled them to navigate social relations and assert her deafness. Brett’s aural continuities, which extended to her fondness of sound technologies such as the Victrola and portable radio, additionally transcend to her art, becoming culturally symbolic for her quest for functional normalcy.