Affective (Dis)Ability: Ian Brown’s Search for “Inner Life” in The Boy in the Moon

Monica Orlando


This essay examines a father’s quest to find proof of the “inner life” of his physically and cognitively disabled son in Ian Brown’s memoir The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son. Through literary analysis and close attention to relevant theories of affect and disability, this paper explores the influence of dominant social and cultural narratives about normalcy and emotion on understandings of disabled lives as well as the limitations of current theories when it comes to recognizing the affective potential of those who fall outside what is considered the zone of normal physical, mental, and emotional experience and expression. I argue here that Brown’s quest to understand his son’s affectivity leads him toward a greater recognition of possibilities for human relationship beyond the intellectual or verbal. I find that the trajectory of Brown’s personal quest has important repercussions for the ways that theories of affect and disability studies can be productively brought together to formulate understandings of intersubjective and interdependent affective relationships for people with cognitive disabilities.

Keywords: disability, affect, emotion, memoir, Canada

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