Disability in Literature and Culture
What is “disability”? Why does defining disability matter, and how do we go about doing it? How is disability socially constructed? What is disability identity? How did the disability rights movement evolve? This colloquium explores growth over the past 20 years of disability rights and studies and considers how cultural notions about dis/ability have shaped literature and been shaped by it as well. Literature consistently is obsessed with the disabled body, both as metaphor and actual subject—a testament to the degree to which disability has loomed in our larger cultural imaginaries in one way or another across centuries. Rather than merely cataloguing examples of disability in literature, we will use disability studies as a framework through which to examine core questions about disability, literature, culture, and the problems and opportunities arising at the intersections of all three. Readings and conversations will help us reframe our ideas about disability and disability history, question socially defined categories of normalcy and ability, and explore “disability culture,” especially as it is evidenced via literature. In addition to more theoretical texts on disability studies, we likely will read works as diverse as Shakespeare’sRichard III, Ultimate X-Men: Ultimate Collection¸ Katherine Dunn’s Geek Love, Russell Banks’ The Sweet Hereafter, and Jillian Wiese’s poetry collection, The Amputee’s Guide to Sex.
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