Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

English

First Advisor

Tiffany Beechy

Second Advisor

Benjamin Robertson

Third Advisor

Michele Moses

Fourth Advisor

Karen Jacobs

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Abstract

Rick Riordan was one of the first children’s authors to feature a protagonist with learning disabilities in a fantasy series—the protagonist of his first series, Percy Jackson, has both ADHD and dyslexia. Drawing on Rosemarie Garland-Thomson and Tobin Siebers’ work within the social construction model of disability theory, as well as psychological and educational studies, I will trace Percy’s journey as he deals with both his learning disabilities and mythical challenges. I will then give an overview of the portrayal of deafness and chronic illness in Riordan’s other works. Looking at traditional portrayals of disability in children’s literature, fantasy literature, and mythology, I find that Riordan’s portrayal of learning disabilities and deafness is an example of radical fantasy writing. Through his accurate portrayal of these disabilities, combined with the fantasy worlds that his characters live in, Riordan challenges the reader to consider a world in which differences are not pathologized. However, Riordan’s portrayal of chronic illness is an example of escapist literature due to its disregard of the complex social stigmas surrounding sickle cell disease. Thus, Riordan’s writing can act as an example of both productive and harmful portrayals of disability for the literary community. By looking at these heroes within the context of disability studies, I will demonstrate how through studying Riordan’s writing, readers and authors alike can gain a greater understanding of what it means to represent disabled characters in a manner that does not exceptionalize, pathologize, or objectify their disabilities, but instead portrays them as real people.

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