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

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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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-114
Number of pages14
JournalDisability and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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