English 31AC

Lower Division Coursework: Literature of American Cultures: Exceptional Bodies --Disability, Race, Ethnicity and Medicine in American Cultures

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2005 Schweik, Susan
Schweik, Susan
TTh 12:30-2 105 North Gate

Other Readings and Media

Adams, M., et. al.: Readings for Diversity and Social Justice; Lai, H., et. al.: Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island; Craft, W. and E.: Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; Dreger, A.: One of Us: Conjoined Twins and the Future of Normal; Dorris, M.: The Broken Cord; Moraga, C.: Heroes and Saints and Other Plays; a xeroxed course reader


"This course will analyze the categories of 'disability,' 'race' and 'ethnicity' critically. Much work on that ambiguous umbrella term 'disability' treats disabled people as ungendered (that is, male), unraced (that is, white), without nationality (that is, native-born American but barely a citizen), and unsexualized (that is, heterosexual, but only in default). My aim in this course is to set up situations in which you can think about several of these categories simultaneously in the context of American cultures present and past. To this end, we will take four historical examples as case studies. First we will examine immigration history (with some emphasis on Angel Island and Chinese immigration). Second, we will focus on how race, disability and gender issues intersect on the freak show (or today the talk show) stage. In the third unit, on slavery, we will begin to unearth a history of disability in American slavery. In the fourth module, we will discuss eugenics and the tight connections between race and disability in eugenic models of degeneration. The final section of the course will move into the present, first giving you some exposure to contemporary activist history that counters the dynamics we have been exploring, and then ending with two close readings of two texts: Native American novelist Michael Dorris's controversial memoir of raising his son who had Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, The Broken Cord, and Chicana writer Cherrie Moraga's play about farmworkers'organizing and the health effects of pesticides, Heroes and Saints.

A variety of guest speakers, including performance artists and disability movement activists, will visit us, and we'll view a series of films. Written requirements: Two in-class midterms and a final paper/project. "

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