What We Talk About When We Talk About Disability

So, it’s been a while. A long, long while. PhD school is intense.

Excuses aside, I’m blogging today because I’m really excited about my composition course theme this term. I’m using a university-specific casebook about disability and embodiment theories, and since I’ve been increasingly obsessed with disability studies in my own scholarship it’s been an interesting and productive emphasis to maintain with my students.

We started the term by reading Lennard J. Davis’s “Constructing Normalcy” and Rosemarie Garland-Thomson’s introduction to Extraordinary Bodies. We then took a look at these videos/articles: “Prototype,” Viktoria Modesta  and “Meet the Finnish Punk Band Changing the Global Understanding of Disability.” 

Thinking about the social/cultural representation and construction of “normalcy” and “disability” has allowed us to think about the complexity and complicity of language in ways that other themes don’t foster nearly as well.

Gender reaches into disability; disability wraps around class; class strains against abuse; abuse snarls into sexuality; sexuality folds on top of race…everything finally piling into a single human body. To write about any aspect of identity, any aspect of the body, means writing about this entire maze. (Eli Clare, Exile & Pride, 143)

As a PhD student, I find myself oddly fixated on disability studies–a theory I’d never really encountered before but knew existed in a peripheral sense–and I’ve written several term papers now with particular attention to representations of disability. Part of this is due to the relevance of the theoretical material to my primary field: Victorian sensation fiction. Part of this is an increasing awareness of how I fit (or fail to fit) within cultural expectations about what it means to be a scholar, a professor, a graduate student.

In the process, I’ve stumbled over several resources that I think are particularly valuable to scholars working in C19 studies. This website, which is peer review by NINES, is probably my most exciting find: Ninteenth-Century Disability: Cultures and Contexts.

I apologize for the disjointed, non sequitur nature of the post. I’m procrastinating a giant pile of reading. Speaking of…

Back to the Books.

CF

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