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The Quest for Authenticity: Complicating the Portrayal of Disability in Stephen Hawking Representations

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posted on 2018-02-08, 00:00 authored by Nicole Marie Sims
The disability community is notoriously misrepresented in disability representations with oversimplified and tired narratives. Authenticity has been put forward by the disability community as the solution for our misrepresentation. “The Quest for Authenticity: Complicating the Portrayal of Disability in Stephen Hawking Representations” critiques authenticity as a rhetorical tool used to inform cultural understandings of disability. This topic requires critique, as authenticity cannot truly capture the complexity of disability. Instead of seeking an answer, I put forth that we must pursue questions that expose the inherent complexity of disability, knowing that a conventional narrative can never be representative of the disability experience. This thesis works to unpack the issue of authenticity in disability representations through an analysis of Stephen Hawking representations as a case study. It uses Hawking representations as an example to help conceptualize how authenticity is implemented in and around disability representations. This thesis situates Hawking representations to represent disability authentically with the assistance of disability scholars and the examination of the discourse that surround these texts. This enables me to expose that authenticity does not exist inherently in representations, but rather is a rhetorical tool that changes and evolves at the hands of the representation’s creator.



Sandahl , Carrie


Sandahl , Carrie


Disability and Human Development

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level


Committee Member

Charlton , James I Patsavas , Alyson

Submitted date

December 2017

Issue date


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