Keller's story is also a member of the genre of disability autobiographies in which the writing of one's life story takes on the characteristics of what the philosopher J.L. Austin called "performative" utterances: The primary function of The Story of My Life, in this sense, is to let readers know that its author is capable of telling the story of her life. The point is hardly a trivial one. Helen Keller was dogged nearly all her life by the charge that she was little more than a ventriloquist's dummy--a mouthpiece for Anne Sullivan, or, later, for the original editor of The Story of My Life, the socialist literary critic John Macy, who married Sullivan in 1905. And even for those who know better than to see Helen Keller as disability's Charlie McCarthy, her education and her astonishing facility with languages nevertheless raise troubling and fascinating questions about subjectivity, individuality and language. Roger Shattuck and Dorothy... [continues]
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