Disability and Dissent: Thelwall’s Elocutionary Project

This essay argues for a reassessment of John Thelwall’s career as an elocutionary scientist in light of recent work in the history of medicine and Disability Studies. Traditionally understood as apolitical—at least in comparison to his involvement in radical politics and materialist science—Thelwall’s therapeutic endeavor should instead be recognized as significantly demonstrating his continued dedication to democratic ideals. Thelwall’s elocutionary texts are, in fact, provocatively egalitarian, and as an elocutionary scientist Thelwall actively resisted the normative views of disability that were beginning to consolidate during the era.