Disability Studies

english 689                    fall2015

Course Objectives

Though this course, we will examine the theoretical, rhetorical, literary, and experiential constructions of disability, and, interrelatedly, of how we define our abilities and humanity/ies. The language used to describe our bodies and differences has profound impacts on our lives, from representation in media, to issues of medical treatment and legal rights, to those of ethics and competition; from how we treat each other, to how we understand who we are. In his preface to the fourth edition of The Disability Studies Reader, Lennard J. Davis notes that “disability is not only accepted but also has become very much a critical term in discussions of being, post-humanism, political theory, transgender theory, philosophy, and the like” (xiii). Through readings, discussions, and various assignment (detailed below), we will explore disability through discourses and practices, arguments and definitions, the metaphorical and the material, the theoretical and the practical.

Required Course Materials

Davis, Lennard J., ed. The Disability Studies Reader, 4th ed. New York/London: Routledge, 2013. Print. ISBN 9780415630511

Dolmage, Jay Timothy. Disability Rhetoric. New York: Syracuse University Press, 2013. Print. ISBN-10: 0815633246    ISBN-13: 978-0815633242

Kerschbaum, Stephanie. Toward a New Rhetoric of Difference. New York: NCTE Press, 2014. ISBN-10: 0814154956   ISBN-13: 978-0814154953

Lewiecki-Wilson, Cynthia, Brenda Jo Brueggemann, and Jay Dolmage, eds. Disability and the Teaching of Writing: A Critical Sourcebook. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. Print. ISBN: 978-0312447250

Wilson, Daniel H. Amped.  ISBN-10: 030774549X      ISBN-13: 978-0307745491

Additional readings will be assigned and made available through Springboard

Access to Springboard!, where all materials will be provided. The course syllabus, schedule, assignments, readings, and any other relevant materials will be posted there. Be sure to check in often. Any changes in the course schedule, etc. will be announced in class and then updated in Springboard!. You are responsible for attending to any changes/updates, even if you miss class.

Access to Google Drive: we will use this for a good deal of in-class work as well as final projects. All files for FINAL projects must be clearly labeled with your NAME, the TITLE of the project, and the word FINAL, or the file will not be accepted.

Note that this will be a web-enhanced course, which means that we will substitute online activities for some of our in-class time. You will need reliable access to the computer and the internet. All days of online activity will be announced in advance.

Grading and Assignments

Blogs and Participation:   30pts

Keyword Presentations:   10pts

Artifact Analysis:   20pts

Final Project:   40pts

Total: 100pts

Blogs and Participation: Participation — active engagement in class discussions and activities — is of the most significant ways we learn together. You must be prepared for and engage in class every week, and I will provide multiple entries for you to do so (large discussion, small group work, activities, etc.). Additionally, you will keep a blog that will serve as a kind of digital “reading journal,” where you will grapple with readings, concepts, and discussions. I will split the class into three groups; groups will blog on alternate weeks (meaning you are required to blog every third week or so, though you are welcome to do more). These posts should do three things:

Summarize/synthesize each class reading.: There should be some summary of each reading, and some effort to put texts in conversation, within each week, and between weeks.

Respond with questions and problem-posing.

Begin thinking about applications for the reading. By an “application,” I mean the ways that we can use the readings to analyze other texts, be they cultural, literary, historical; or even to analyze social phenomena or personal experiences.

Keyword Presentations: You will present a brief in-class presentation (10-15min) on one of the keywords in the course (list to be generated) or on a keyword of your choosing. The presentation should include the etymology of the word, its changing usages, and its present cultural meanings as related to disability. You will write a brief (1-3 pages) paper to accompany the presentation.

Artifact Analysis: You will show and provide an overview of at least one specific text – be it a TV show, advertisement, novel, poem, historical artifact, or other example.  This text needs to be easily related to the readings we have done in the class so far, providing you with an opportunity to apply what you have learned to the analysis of this text.  Your presentation on this application need not be formal – no need for handouts.  But the presentation should take about 30 minutes of class time, meaning that you are responsible for planning this time – with questions, activities, and structure.  You cannot assume that the rest of the class has read/seen/experienced this text beforehand, so part of what you need to do is describe and explain it, so that you can then analyze it, and so that the rest of the class will be able to discuss it, too.

Final Project: You will do the kind of work required for a traditional conference paper/presentation, with the flexibility of genre and format. This might include any of the following (though you are not limited to these options): a theoretical talk; discussion of a specific application in terms of pedagogy or policy; a critical analysis of cultural or literary texts; an historical interpretation; a personal narrative, poem, or performance; a multimedia collage; an interactive event or installation.  Regardless of the genre,  you will need to develop a scholarly angle (whether this is part of the main text, or an accompanying text). Additionally, your project must have a specific audience (which I can help you find). Group projects are also an option; we’ll need to discuss the terms of these if that’s your choice.

Additional Class Policies


I expect you to attend class regularly and punctually. Irregular attendance or tardiness will be a factor in your final grade. Regular attendance also requires that you be prepared and actively participate in each class. You should complete all reading and homework assignments before coming to class.

You are allowed two absences without penalty. Additional absences will harm your final grade. Four or more absences will result in failing this course.

Accessibility and Disability

All of us learn in different ways, and the organization of any course will accommodate each student differently. For example, you may prefer to process information by speaking and listening, so that some of the written material I provide may be difficult to absorb. Please talk to me as soon as you can about your individual learning needs and how this course can best accommodate them. We will work as a class to be conscious of and accommodating to each other. You can also seek accommodations through the UA Office of Accessibility: 330-972-7928 (v), 330-972-5764 (tdd) or The office is located in Simmons Hall Room 105.

Classroom Conduct

Since this classroom will be conducted as a community of writers, I expect you to treat each member of our community with the dignity and respect she or he deserves. No discriminatory behavior directed toward a person’s race, creed, religion, national origin, age, sex, or disability will be tolerated in this classroom. I also expect you to conduct yourself with academic integrity. 

Please see the University Code of Conduct for further information:

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is vital to a university. In general, the policy here is this: Do not plagiarize. Your work must be your own. If you borrow words or ideas from another writer or designer, you need to make it explicit (through proper citation) that the words/ideas in question are not your own. Please keep in mind that the penalty for plagiarism can be severe (whether this be on drafts or final papers). At the least, this may include receiving no credit for the plagiarized assignment. See me immediately if you have questions about the University’s policy on plagiarism. Please see these sources for further information:

Extenuating Circumstances

If you have information you wish to share with me about a disability, disorder, or neurodiversity issue, if you have emergency medical information you think I should know about, or if you need special arrangements in case the building must be evacuated, please contact me privately as soon as possible.

If at any time during the semester, personal crises prevent you from adhering to these policies, please notify me as early as possible. Either call my office number and leave a message if I’m not available, or e-mail me. Before making exceptions to any of the policies stated in this syllabus, I might request appropriate documentation. This might include letters from physicians, counselors, and/or academic advisors.


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