'A person with some sort of learning disability': the aetiological narrative and public construction of Susan Boyle

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Abstract

Susan Boyle's audition for the television talent competition Britain's Got Talent attracted global attention and widespread media discourse. In this article, I would like to examine this discourse to consider how Boyle's success troubles conventional constructions of both learning disability and celebrity.I extend Ciara Evans's recognition that learning disability is invisible to reflect on the media responses to Boyle's impairment. This reflection notes that even within Boyle's own discourse, she is loosely positioned as having 'some sort of learning disability'.Detailed attention is given to the aetiological account of the 'brain damage' Boyle 'suffered' at birth. The analysis will consider the correlation with scientific discourse, trauma theory and the imposed biography to suggest that the construction of Boyle as both contained and unpredictable is already implicit in the aetiological narrative.

LanguageEnglish
Pages101-114
Number of pages14
JournalDisability and Society
Volume29
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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Learning Disorders
learning disability
Aptitude
narrative
human being
discourse
Television
brain damage
Hearing
VIP
Parturition
trauma
television
Wounds and Injuries
Brain

Cite this

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