Karen Bruce


I came to the Ohio State University with a foundation in gender studies, and an interest in linguistic feminism in particular. I was concerned with exploring the points of intersection between bodies and language in discourse, particularly when it came to women’s speech and virginity. During my time in the Ohio State Masters’ programme, however, I found that my focus naturally shifted to the areas of Anglo-Saxon literature and disability studies, which allowed me to explore the same connection between corporeality and textuality, but in a much less discussed field.

Thus, my aim in my Ph.D research is to develop a holistic understanding of disability in Anglo-Saxon society. More specifically, I wish to answer the questions of how they conceived of impairment, disability and deformity; what language existed to describe people with disabilities; what the daily lives of people with disabilities were like, and what social spaces and roles were open to them; and what literary and symbolic functions disability served.


In 2010, I presented a paper entitled “Bot and the Body: An Analysis of Disability in the Alfredian Law Codes” at a session sponsored by the Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages at the 45th International Congress on Medieval Studies. It used the Alfredian law codes as a lens to examine whether the Anglo-Saxons had a concept of disability distinct from impairment, and to begin defining what their model of disability would have been.

In 2011, I shall be presenting a paper entitled “Curvus erat: The Life-story of the Hunchback Aethelsige in the Narratio Metrica de S. Swithuno” at the same session sponsored by the Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages at the 46th International Congress on Medieval Studies. Although this paper is still in its embryonic stages, I intend to use the story of Aethelsige as told in Wulfstan’s tenth century Metrical Life of Saint Swithun as a means of thinking about the lived experience of people with disabilities in the early Middle Ages, and of demarcating the complex and often contradictory social roles available to them.


“Amazons,” “Parthenogenesis,” and “Kate Wilhelm.” Women in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Ed. Robin Reid. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2007. Print.

“Aryans in Utopia: Mary Bradley Lane’s Mizora as an Example of the Contemporaneity of the Utopian Form.” Topic 56 (2010): 23-32. Print.

"A Woman-Made Language: Suzette Haden Elgin's Láadan and the Native Tongue Trilogy as Thought Experiment in Feminist Linguistics." Extrapolation 49.1 (2008): 44-69. Print.

“Women in the Proverbs.” Book review of Mineke Schipper’s Never Marry a Woman with Big Feet: Women in the Proverbs around the World." Current Writing 19.1 (2007): 169-170. Print.

Areas of Expertise
  • Gender and sexuality Studies

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573 Denney Hall
Columbus campus