Date of Award

Summer 2023

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Emily B. Stanback

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Leah Parker

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Nicolle Jordan

Committee Member 3 School



This thesis focuses on letters written by British Romantic author Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who wrote about his chronic illness during the period of emerging modern ideas of disability. Coleridge’s letters are valuable to readers in the twenty-first century because they enable us to track the formation and negotiation of Coleridge’s disability identity. As one of the most important thinkers and authors in the English language, Coleridge has a lot to teach us about how one can understand their illnesses, medical authority, and the influences of disability on friendships and social roles. This thesis considers Coleridge’s letters to his loved ones alongside disability studies scholarship. A 1797 letter to Thomas Poole allows Coleridge to retrospectively create a narrative centered around his health, its loss, and the expression of his disability identity. An 1802 letter to his brother James Coleridge allows him to articulate an alternate form of medical authority based in part on his experience as a disabled person. His letters to Robert Southey describe the influences his illnesses had on his sense of self, his inability to meet normative expectations, and negotiations in living with a disabled identity. The final part of the thesis examines his letters to his ill friend and patron Thomas Wedgwood in which he emphasizes their shared connection of living with a disability. Coleridge’s letters have potential to reshape modern assumptions about the experience of disability, inviting an reassessment of disabled futures and changing the way we conceive of our relationship with disability in centuries past.