Body and Soul

MY PRINCIPAL reasons for writing The Body Silent were to convey to the general reader, and to the physically impaired, the inner experience of paralytic disability and the outer struggles of the handicapped against an inimical society. It is dissapointing to note that Harilyn Rousso's review of the book (Book World, March 29), though fair on many points, distorts my position on my two main subjects.

The crux of the matter lies in the reviewer's disagreement with my conclusion that the disabled not only suffer devaluation by society, but also undergo a crisis of self-esteem that is precipitated by the bodily damage itself. Does Ms. Rousso, a psychotherapist who counsels the disabled, really maintain that a devastating assault upon the body will not have a major, and negative, impact upon one's sense of the self? Her stance is erroneous, for this kind of mind/body separation would take psychology back to Scholasticism. In the final analysis, deliberately ignoring the damage inflicted on the ego by deep physical loss is little more than a denial of disability comparable with the occasional fantasy of stroke survivors and amputees that they are intact.

My book said only that the full extent of this inner erosion of selfhood must be confronted squarely in order to overcome it, for contrary to Ms. Rousso's interpretation of my work, its entire tenor is that one can transcend these limits of body and mind. But it's a tough struggle. In light of this, I am puzzled by her contention that I am blaming the victim, for I devote two whole chapters and parts of others to analyzing society's victimization of the disabled. My qualifications for carrying out such an inquiry are 10 years in a wheelchair and 40 years as a social scientist.

Perhaps the reviewer's misunderstandings were most clearly signaled by her reference to "the social transformation he {me} has undergone, from revered teacher, scholar, husband and father to a member of a highly stigmatized minority group: the disabled." I should inform your readers that, though I doubt whether I was ever revered by anybody, I am still teaching undergraduate classes and guiding graduate students, I am still doing research and writing books, my wife hasn't divorced me and my children haven't disowned me. The whole point of the book is that the disabled are fully capable of doing all these things -- or damn near anything else to which they set their minds and wills. Robert F. Murphy Department of Anthropology Columbia University New York, N.Y. 10027

Harilyn Rousso replies: I quite agree with Robert F. Murphy that disabled individuals, particularly those with new disabilities, can experience a dramatic shift in self-esteem as the result of their often sudden physical loss. However, this reaction is not as inevitable or unalterable as Dr. Murphy suggests.

After going through an initial period of mourning, newly disabled people can creatively adapt to bodily change. They reestablish a positive sense of self by integrating the fact of disability with their broad range of talents and capacities. Unlike Professor Murphy, I believe that a person can become disabled and remain intact. This can be accomplished without denial and without transcending the limits of body and mind. Rather, the disability becomes an acceptable part of oneself. Regrettably, such an adaptation is often difficult to achieve because we live in a society that insists on viewing disabled people as sick, helpless, incompetent, asexual and defective.

As Professor Murphy indicates, he indeed leads a full and productive life. Hence he is an important role-model for young disabled people who are struggling to feel good about themselves despite pervasive negative stereotypes. Perhaps at some point in the near future, nondisabled people will recognize their commonalities with those of us who are disabled. When that happens, I believe that self-esteem problems among disabled people will greatly subside.

Sense and Censorship

AS STRONG FIRST Amendment advocates we defend Reese Cleghorn's right to parody our book The Virtuous Journalist (Book World, April 19), although we wonder why he wanted to do so. In dwelling on the 2 1/2-page section on a national news council, he all but ignored 99 percent of the book. When he did refer to the views we expressed on other matters, he misrepresented them. It is, however, his characterization of us as "authoritarian," "teeth-gnashing" supporters of "blackjack"-wielding censors that moves us to protest. In response, we offer a few sentences that we believe fairly represent the tenor of our position on press accountability:

"We agree {with Robert C. Maynard, editor and publisher of The Oakland Tribune} that some mechanism resembling a news council could play a pivotal role in providing a framework of accountability in journalism. Vigorous self-monitoring, not self-censorship, is a promising way to provide a barrier against the threat of federal encroachment, to deliver candid criticism, and to help make journalists accountable."Stephen Klaidman Tom L. Beauchamp Joseph and Rose Kennedy Institute of Ethics Georgetown University Washington, D.C. 20057

Author Queries

FOR A book about guilt and its repercussions experienced by persons who place spouse or aged parent in nursing home. Need personal anecdotes. Names withheld on request. Cornelia Hollander 3502 Macomb St. NW Washington, D.C. 20016

FOR A study of the Lady Franklin Bay Arctic Expedition under Lieutenant A.W. Greeley, 1881-84, I would appreciate hearing from anyone with personal letters, diaries or other heretofore unpublished material. Leonard F. Guttridge 4420 Raleigh Ave., Apt. 102 Alexandria, Va. 22304

READERS WITH biographical information concerning "the Sultana" -- Elizabeth (Mrs. Joshua) Loring of Boston -- who during the Revolutionary War lived in New York and Philadelphia as wartime mistress of British General Sir William Howe, are asked to contact me. Fielding Greaves Box 368 San Rafael, Calif. 94915

FOR A work on the Women's Anthropological Society of American, active in Washington, D.C., from 1885-1899, I would appreciate hearing from anyone with information about it, its publicaitons or its members, particularly Matilda Coxe Stevenson, Alice Fletcher or Anita Newcomb McGee. Laurie D. May 7209 Holly Ave. Takoma Park, Md.

MEMORABILIA, letters and information are sought about Mary Katherine Goddard, born in New London, Conn., 1738, died in Baltimore, 1816. She was the publisher of the first Baltimore newspaper, the Maryland Journal, and also the first postmistress of Baltimore. J. Willenz 6309 Bannockburn Dr. Bethesda, Md. 20817