English 175

Literature and Disability

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2017 Langan, Celeste
TTh 3:30-5 108 Wheeler

Book List

Coetzee, J.M.: Slow Man; Haddon, M.: Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time; Keller, Helen: Story of My Life; Kleege, Georgina: Blind Rage: Letters to Helen Keller; Melville, Herman: The Shorter Novels of Herman Melville; Oe, Kenzaburo: A Quiet Life; Shakespeare: Richard III; Wordsworth and Coleridge: Lyrical Ballads, 1798;

Recommended: Davis, Lennard: Disability Studies Reader


This course will have several components. An introductory section will provide students with a grounding in disability theory; we’ll wonder whether it’s possible to develop a common “theory” adequate to various disability categories (sensory, cognitive, motor; illness/injury; ugliness/fatness/queerness; legal disabilities of race/gender/class/religion). We will then shift to an examination of the role of literature in the "humanization" of disability, and read a series of texts that work at once to represent disability and to "disable" generic norms. Rather than focus simply on literary representations of disability, we will try to think about the concept of literature via the category of disability. We are told that “poems make nothing happen" (Auden); that dramatic performance and fictional utterance are peculiarly "parasitic" forms of speech (Austin/Searle). Noting the negativity of these definitions, we will consider how literature can operate to disable "normal," instrumental assumptions about communication.  Finally, we'll consider the extent to which print literature is "disabled" by the advent of new media--which will give us a chance to consider ways media and other designed objects, including designed environments, produce as well as neutralize disabilities.

Assignments will include two short (5-8 page) critical essays, a group or individual presentation project, and regular discussion posts.  There will be no final exam, but regular attendance is required.

This is a core course for the Disability Studies Minor.

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