English 175

Literature and Disability

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Session Course Areas
1 Summer 2022 Drawdy, Miles
TWTh 12-2 88 Dwinelle C


Writing two decades ago, David T. Mitchell and Sharon L. Snyder observed that “[w]hile other identities such as race, sexuality, and ethnicity have pointed to the dearth of images produced about them in the dominant literature, disability has experienced a plethora of representations in visual and discursive works. Consequently, disabled people’s marginalization has occurred in the midst of a perpetual circulation of their images.” In this course, we will deepen the irony of Mitchell and Snyder’s observation not only by attending to representations of disability but also by exploring the formative role disability has played in the history of literature. Specifically, we will ask how definitions of disability have historically informed definitions of literature – and vice versa. 

Though we will read selected nonfiction and criticism, we will focus the great bulk of our attention on drama in order to pursue more explicitly questions of embodiment, aesthetics, casting, staring, ethics, the friction between dramatic and political representation, performance and the law, drama therapy, commercialism, and economics. We will pursue these questions across both historical periods and dramatic forms, examining the mutually constitutive (though not always sympathetic) relationship between disability and literature in genres ranging from classical tragedy to the modern musical. Finally, by examining plays with no explicit representations of disability, we will work to affirm the vitality and relevance of disability theory to literary criticism.

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